Botched Statue Restoration Compared to Infamous ‘Ecce Homo’ Incident

Three photos. The first is of the original "Ecce Homo" painting. The second is of the damaged version. The third is of the botched restoration of the painting.

“Ecce Homo” is a famous painting of Jesus by Spanish painter Elías García Martínez. Cecilia Giménez, a woman in her 80s, tried to restore the damaged painting but ended up destroying it in the process.
Image courtesy of Observatorio de Restauracion via Flickr Creative Commons.

The recent restoration of the 16th-century St. George wooden statue displayed at St. Michael’s Church in Estella, Spain is being compared to 2012’s infamous botched restoration of “Ecce Homo,” a painting of Jesus.

“‘Navarre’s Ecce Homo’: Another church in Spain falls victim to a well-intentioned restorer,” a CNN headline reads.

Other outlets, such as ABC, are comparing the statue restoration to the comic book character Tintin. Meanwhile, backlash immediately ensued on Twitter and other social media after photos of the retouched sculpture were revealed. Many social media users said the statue now looks like a Playmobil toy.

Obviously, the restoration of the statue was not done by a restoration specialist. Much like the restoration of “Ecce Homo,” the bungled statue touch-ups were also done by a novice artist—a local arts and crafts teacher. However, the teacher allegedly was not asked to touch up the sculpture at all; she was simply supposed to clean it.

Instead, “… it was returned with a flushed face and bright armor, looking much like a Disney character,” ABC reported.

Unfortunately, the restoration was not authorized by the Navarra region’s heritage institution. The authorities were notified about the restoration attempt, but the damage was done before anything could be done about it.

However, there remains a sliver of optimism. In the case of the infamous restoration of “Ecce Homo,” thousands of tourists came to visit Borja—the town where the “restored” painting resides. According to The New York Times, local vineyards have fought over who has the rights to use the image of the mismanaged “Ecce Homo” on their own wine labels. A comic opera was even inspired by the debacle.

Although it’s likely the original colors and details of the statue in Estella have been lost forever, The New York Times considers whether another tourist boom might boost the church and Estella’s popularity, just as the botched restoration of “Ecce Homo” did for the town of Borja.



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