A New Restoration Fail in Spain Is Drawing Comparisons to the Beloved ‘Beast Jesus’

Instead of hiring an expert, a church hired a local art teacher to restore the work.

Before and after a misguided restoration on the statue of St. George at Navarre, Spain's Church of San Miguel de Estella. Photo via Twitter.

The botched restoration of a carved-wood sculpture of Saint George is provoking anger, laughter—and an unfortunate case of deja vu. A Spanish art teacher’s effort to restore the 16th-century work is being compared to the infamously failed restoration of the Ecco Homo fresco, otherwise known as “Beast Jesus,” in 2012.

Housed at the Church of San Miguel de Estella in Navarre, Spain, the sculpture shows a typical depiction of Saint George on horseback clad in armor and fighting a dragon. The sculpture was commissioned to be restored by the Parrish priest of the church and was carried out by the local teacher. Unfortunately, the 500-year-old artwork now resembles something out of a Disney cartoon: The uniformity of the paint distribution has left Saint George with a pink face, beady eyes, and a garish red and gray suit of armor.

Photo: courtesy of ArtUs Restauración Patrimonio.

“[T]he restoration leaves much to be desired,” the mayor of the municipality, Koldo Leoz, told El Español. “[B]eing 16th-century polychrome sculpture, you have to be very careful with the choice of materials, or you can lose the entire original layer.” He added that the local municipality could have provided support by requesting help from the government of Navarre for funds to hire competent technicians to properly preserve the town’s cultural heritage.

Loez also believes that the public should have a say in how works like the Saint George sculpture are maintained.

“From a cultural, historical and artistic point of view what happened is a pity,” Leoz continued. “In my opinion, it’s an example of the power that churches have over the fate of cultural heritage that should be in the hands of public administration; because the vast majority of churches, and the artworks within them, have regularly received money from the citizens and we should have control over them so that this kind of thing does not happen.”

Before and after restoration to Ecco Homo in 2012.

The fiasco is remarkably similar to the fate suffered by a fresco of Jesus in the town of Borja in north-eastern Spain, which was horrendously “restored” by a local amateur art restorer in 2012. The incident quickly went viral after images of the well-intentioned woman’s botched effort were circulated on social media.

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