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Virgin and Child with saint Anne sculptures from the 15th century

Three 500-year-old Holy Statues Damaged in Botched Restoration Job

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2018 is the year of tasteless restoration jobs and now, the latest victims are three 15th century wooden statues of the Virgin and Child, the Virgin and Child with St Anne, and St Peter, are the latest holy relics to have been destroyed in a botched restoration job.

Professionally Restored Statues Were ‘Brightened Up’

The trinity of 500-year-old statues peacefully inhabited a tiny shrine in the hamlet of Rañadorio, in the north-western Spanish region of Asturias. The statues had been “sympathetically and professionally restored 15 years ago,” according to a report in The Guardian but a local shopkeeper, permitted by the parish priest, decided to freshen them up.

María Luisa Menéndez, the local tobacco shop owner, got out her cheap brushes and paint because she claimed, “the statues had been looking a bit tired and dull.”

“I’m not a professional painter” Menéndez told reporters at El Comercio newspaper “but I’ve always liked painting and the statues really needed painting.”

Defending her artistic car crash she added, “I painted them as best I could using what I thought were the right colors. The neighbors liked them too. Ask around here and you’ll find out.”

500-year-old Virgin and Child statue has been ‘brightened up’ with industrial enamel. (Image: El Comercio)

500-year-old Virgin and Child statue has been ‘brightened up’ with industrial enamel. (Image: El Comercio)

The fact that the Rañadorio figures have been caked in bright paint is only part of the problem, because Mary, her mother and Jesus have been painted for the first time, to the horror of Luis Suárez Saro, the statues’ original restorer. Saro told The Guardian, “They’ve used the kind of industrial enamel paint they sell for painting anything and absolutely garish and absurd colors… The result is just staggering. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry.”

Shock of the original restorer

Saro, visited the shrine with friends last week and said he was “at a loss to comprehend what had taken place.” In 2002 the community had agreed to the restoration which was “then signed off and paid for by the local culture department,” according to Saro. “The neighbors were all very happy with the restoration. That statues were in a pretty poor state back then but we managed to recover bits of the original paint on two of the statues – 50% or 60% – but one had never been painted.”

For Saro, the botched restoration is “just ignorance and a lack of sensitivity towards art in its original state.” And now that church officials are aware of their ignorance a spokesman for the archbishop of Oviedo told reporters at The Guardian that “staff were too busy preparing for Saturday’s feast of the Virgin of Covadonga to comment.”

Paved with good intentions

These types of archaeological disasters are all too common in Spain. A recent article in The Telegraph told of a 16th century wooden carving of St George battling a dragon situated in a small church in Estella, Navarre northern Spain. A local handicrafts teacher left this 500-year old carving looking "more like a cartoon character” attracting comparisons with Walt Disney characters. Without any consultation, according to the town's mayor Koldo Leoz, an arts-and-crafts workshop company called Karmacolor undertook the work at “the behest of the local priest,” then handed the job to the local teacher.

Ecce Hommo by Elias Garcia Martinez was destroyed in 2012 by a failed restoration attempt. (Left; Public Domain; Right; CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Ecce Hommo by Elias Garcia Martinez was destroyed in 2012 by a failed restoration attempt. (Left; Public Domain; Right; CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Then, in 2012 The Telegraph exposed the incident of the restoration of Ecce Homo, a religious mural in Borja in 2012, by Cecilia Giménez, that “left Christ looking rather more like a monkey than the savior.” Borja now boasts a special museum promoting the blurry lines of Giménez’s ‘Ecce Homo’, and there has even been an opera about this botched restoration. A USA Today article covering this incident said “when a well-intentioned woman in her 80s turned a 19-century painting into a "Monkey Christ.”

But tastelessness in religious art restoration is certainly not secular to Spain. A Daily Mail article published today tells of a “Buddha painted with 'ridiculous' colors during botched repair works in south-west China. This 1000-year-old statue is being described as “bright, with cartoonish colors, sparking ridicule and outrage.” The local government has issued an apology after photos of the ridiculous restoration went viral on social media platforms, where users referred to the paintwork as 'disfiguring and disrespectful'.

Meanwhile an effeminate Saint Anthony of Padua has been brought out of a 17 th century statue in Colombia.

Top image: Virgin and Child with saint Anne sculptures from the 15 th century. Source: El Comercio

By Ashley Cowie



From now on they should try to get Christians to restore Christian statues.

ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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