15th Century Spanish Statue Restored by Amateur Goes Viral

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A woman takes pictures of the deteriorated version of 'Ecce Homo' by 19th-century painter Elias Garcia Martinez, at the Borja Church in Zaragoza on August 28, 2012. An elderly woman's catastrophic attempt to 'restore' a century-old oil painting of Christ in a Spanish church has provoked popular uproar, and amusement. CESAR MANSO/AFP/GettyImages

A 15th-century wooden statue, part of a set in a chapel in the Asturias region of Spain, hit the headlines Saturday after a colorful amateur restoriation by a shopkeeper, Maria Luisa Menendez.

The statue features three prominent religious figures: St. Anne, the patron saint of the village of Rañadorio in northwestern Spain, the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus Christ. Menendez gave them brightly colored robes, with St. Anne in bright red, Mary in a garish pink and the baby Jesus in highlighter green.

A Spanish parishioner gave a 15th century statue of the Virgin Mary, Jesus and Saint Peter kitschy colours in another botched restoration https://t.co/tLw2or0rt0 pic.twitter.com/7Bf7egL384

— AFP News Agency (@AFP) September 7, 2018

Menendez obtained permission from the local Rañadorio clergy to give these centuries-old statues a touch-up. "I'm not a professional painter, but I've always enjoyed it, and these images really were in need of painting," Menendez told El Comercio, a Spanish newspaper. "So I painted them the best I could, with the colors that seemed right, and the neighbors like it."

Residents were quoted by local news outlets defending the restoration, The New York Times reported on Saturday. Others did not share these sentiments.

"Does nobody care about this continued plunder in our country?" ACRE, the Professional Association of Conservative Restauradores of Spain, tweeted on Thursday. "What kind of society allows passive to destroy before their eyes the legacy of their ancestors?"

De nuevo gritamos #SOSPatrimonio. ¿A nadie le importa este expolio continuado en nuestro país? ¿Qué tipo de sociedad permite pasiva que destruyan ante sus ojos el legado de sus antepasados? https://t.co/iCEqmxtvDc pic.twitter.com/PhW7BGfZGc

— ACRE (@A_CR_E) September 6, 2018

ACRE's mission statement according to their website is to demand the regulation of the profession" and "promote the intervention of Cultural Heritage from highly qualified educational profiles."

Genaro Alonso, the regional minister for culture and education in the Asturias region, said that the statues look "more like a vengeance than a restoration" the Spanish newspaper La Voz de Asturias reported on Friday.

This is not the first time a classic piece of religious art was botched in an amateur restoration. Someone took it upon themselves to paint over a 16th-century statue of St. George in June, painting over the figure in St. Michael's Church in Estella of northern Spain.

De nuevo en España se vuelve a destrozar una obra de arte. Esta imagen es de San Jorge y del siglo XVI de San Miguel de Estella (Navarra). Curioso que los jefes contraten a semejantes restauradores, a lo mejor se tendrían que restaurar los jefes que los contratan ¿No? pic.twitter.com/G9iyLidgPr

— Xavi Escaned (@escaned) June 26, 2018

Even earlier, the "ecce homo" fresco of Jesus Christ in 2012 was "restored" by Cecilia Giménez in Borja of northeastern Spain. She wanted to restore it because the original fresco had begun to flake. But her attempt to restore the portrait was so poor that local authorities at first treated it as an illegal act of vandalism. Now, it is a tourist attraction.