Art is hard. Most of us struggle to draw a convincing tree let alone a human being, but others out there are confident they have the skills. When restoring an already-completed piece, people seem even more sure of themselves. Remember that restoration of a 100-year old fresco of Jesus in Spain in 2012? History repeated itself this past June when the Church of St. Michael in Estella (also Spain) needed a carving touched up.
The 16th-century wooden carving depicts St. George riding his horse into victory against a dragon. The church asked a local workshop, who then outsourced the job to the town’s art teacher. The result? A garishly-colorful St. George many compared to the character Woody from “Toy Story.” His armor is bright red and gray, while his face is pearly-pink. Unlike the 2012 fresco incident, St. George is clearly recognizable, but the original colors and spirit of the work are completely lost.
The mayor of the town was furious and tweeted that Estella will not make headlines because of its “spectacular historical, artistic, architectural or cultural heritage, but because of miserable actions…” According to him, the church didn’t even tell the city council it planned on having the carving restored, which the law requires. Instead, the church went to the workshop, which specializes in children’s crafts and furniture repair. The priest defended himself, saying he only asked for a cleaning, not a full restoration. Professional restorers are also dismayed and angry that such a precious historical artwork is essentially ruined because people failed to realize how specialized restoration is.
In the case of the Jesus fresco, its internet fame ended up providing an economic boost to the town as people began flooding to the church to see the restoration themselves. Perhaps the Disney-fied St. George will enjoy a similar audience.