Behold The Botch Job: Latest Spanish Restoration Destroys 15th Century Sculptures




Two 15th Century wooden sculptures in a Spanish church have been unsympathetically restored by an over-enthusiastic parishioner in an amateur botch job.

“I’m not a professional, but I always liked to do it, and the figures really needed to be painted”

In a case highly reminiscent of the restoration of the Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) fresco nearly destroyed by a woman in her 80s in 2012, the previously unpainted statues have attracted international media attention. The Ecce Homo painting has since become an attraction in its own right, drawing thousands of visitors to the town of Borja, also in northern Spain.

The previously unpainted wooden statues have been given a bright coating with industrial, gloss enamel paint. Mary has been given a  pink headscarf and eyeliner. Another statue showed St Peter, now dressed in deep red. They are in a chapel in a hamlet in northern Spain’s Asturias region. One of the 28 residents of El Ranadoiro, Maria Luisa Menendez, was given permission from the local priest to paint the figurines, local newspaper El Comercio reported.

“I’m not a professional, but I always liked to do it, and the figures really needed to be painted. So I painted them as I could, with the colours that looked good to me, and the neighbours liked it,” she told the newspaper, quoted by AFP.

Behold the Monkey Botch Job

Behold the Monkey Botch Job

Asturias officials were not happy with the results. The principality’s Education Adviser Genaro Alonso described it to Efe news agency as a “vengeance rather than a restoration”.Spanish art conservation association ACRE also decried the “continued pillaging in our country”. “What kind of society stands by as its ancestor’s legacy is destroyed before its eyes?” it said in a tweet.

Last June a church in the northern town of Estella employed a local arts and crafts teacher to update a 16th-Century wooden sculpture of St George.

The sculpture was transformed with a pink face and bright coloured armour. Some online commentators likened the result to the comic book character Tintin. In other words a ‘Botch Job! The St George sculpture before and after the restoration attempt. Meanwhile an earlier botched Cecilia Gimenez: “Everybody who came into the church could see I was painting”

Celia Gimenez’s painting became an internet sensation last August when “Ecce Homo” (“Behold the Man”) a mural in a chapel in the town of Borja depicting Christ with a crown of thorns, was disfigured by Seniora Gimenez, while she attempted to restore it. It was re-dubbed “Ecce Mono” (“Behold the Monkey”) on social networking sites internationally. The painting has since become a pilgrimage site for art enthusiasts and the image has been used on T-shirts and wine labels.

The story broke when fellow worshippers raised the alarm that the 120-year-old fresco had been transformed into something which resembled a character from “Planet of the Apes”. To add to the humiliation, a local Catholic cultural foundation, the Centre for Borjanos, had just received a donation from the granddaughter of the artist to return the fresco to its former glory. ‘The woman, Cecilia Gimenez, who was in her 80s, apparently considered herself to be an artist and acted without authorisation from anyone. ‘The church was always open, as it was actively in use.  Many people saw the restoration in progress but no one questioned the authority of Seniora Gimenez and even though there was a guard in attendance at all times, no one realised what she was doing until she had finished.’

Change.org created a petition on their website calling for the church to save the altered fresco. Over 80,000 signatures calling for the parish not to make any changes to her work on the painting. Tourism officials in the town of Borja in northeast Spain say it has drawn more than 40,000 visitors and raised more than 50,000 Euros for charity. Gimenez and the local council are now set to sign a merchandising deal.

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