A local priest in the town of Estella, Spain, hired an art teacher instead of a trained art restorer to help return a 16th century statue of Saint George to its former glory. However, the “restoration” didn’t go quite as planned.
The results are closer to a complete reinterpretation than a restoration, with paint colors chosen without respect to the pigments that would have been available when the statue was first created. The original construction methods were likely disregarded, as was the facial expression of Saint George himself (who is now stuck in a constant state of surprise)
Sadly, this is what happens when professionals are not consulted with on the restoration of precious antique artifacts. Art historians and preservationists spend years learning techniques to recreate historically accurate colors and techniques through non-invasive restoration.
The statue of Saint George is an example of polychromatic sculpture in which layers of paint are painstaking built up in layers in order to provide depth, radiance, or texture. The most recent re-painting and sanding of the statue have likely made actual restoration of these paint layers impossible for future restorers.
After the statue was revealed art preservationists were rightly outraged. In a statement issued by the La Asociación Profesional de Conservadores Restauradores de España (or ACRE as they are more commonly known) they call this botched restoration an attack on Spain’s cultural heritage. The priest responsible for hiring the artist could face charges for not following protocol in such matters where historic relics are concerned.
Many people have remarked that the statue now looks quite cartoonish compared to the original.
Some have likened the repainting of the statue of Saint George to the 2012 botched “Ecce Homo” painting restoration in Borja, Spain. In the case of the painting, the original work only dated back to 1930 and actually really helped the town of Borja since the painting of Christ became a huge tourist attraction. However, it seems doubtful that such a silver lining exists for an artifact as old as the Saint George statue.