For this blog post, I’m bringing attention to the forgotten art of restoration botched by, believe it or not, old Spanish ladies. One might even think it is an ongoing trend, but in their defense, they were just doing the best they could with the limited resources available to them. What I am talking about is the recent “restoration” of a 15th century statue of the Virgin Mary by María Luisa Menéndez, a local woman in Asturias, Spain.
As a local tobacco shop owner, María took the lead in giving the 15th-century sculptures of Mary, Saint Anne, baby Jesus, Saint Peter and a second Virgin Mary a neon makeover with fresh eyeliner and lipstick. “I’m not a professional painter but I’ve always liked painting and the statues really needed painting,” she told El Comercio. “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.” She also made it very clear that she had received permission from the local clergy to do so according to local media reports.
Apparently local news outlets did find some locals in support of Maria, but then again, the town only has 16 residents. The regional minister for culture and education in Asturias, Genaro Alonso, however, fully disagrees, calling the amateur work more “a vengeance than a restoration,” according to the newspaper La Voz de Asturias.
To make things even more interesting, when people started researching these statues, they found out that apparently they had been restored by professionals only 15 years earlier! But their reason for not painting them as Maria did? The wooden family had never been painted in the first place. Upon examining the damage, Luis Suárez Saro who was the original restorer said that, “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.” he told the Guardian. An infrared examination will be undertaken by Saro to determine just how much damage has been done and if it can be reversed.
But of course, this isn’t the first time the art world has seen this kind of murder. Back in June of this year, a Spanish art teacher tried to restore a 16th-century statue of Saint George on horseback from the Church of San Miguel de Estella in Navarre, Spain.
A cartoonish makeover nonetheless that many began to draw comparisons to Hergé’s comic book character Tintin:
And then there was the mother (or father, in this case) of all botched historical art works – one that even made it as a skit on SNL – the Ecce Homo incident of 2012 in which 83-year-old Cecilia Giménez decided to give an almost century-old fresco of Jesus Christ a makeover from her local church in Borja, Spain.
Why are these historical art works left to the hands of these amateur Spanish women? The answer lies within the church institutions and artworks themselves. Many of these artworks that were commissioned by churches centuries ago never once thought about the longevity of these artworks. Over the years they are exposed to different elements that rapidly speed up process of deterioration. These small town churches with only about 1,000-10,000 residents barely have enough money to fund themselves and therefore seek humble volunteer services of its residents to help with maintenance of their church. So when the church notices an artwork or statue that needs a little pick-me-up, they soon find out how much professional restorers/conservators charge for their services. Having no money whatsoever, the church/clergy then looks upon the humble volunteer services of its residents and hires who they see “fit.” That is how you then end up with these three masterful artworks that should honestly have their own display cases in the Museum of Failure.