Botched Restoration of 16th-Century Saint George Statue Returned to Former Glory

The sculpture, which became a viral sensation, required 1000 hours of restoration work

The sculpture before and after the disastrous restoration, and now its latest restoration. Courtesy: Navarre regional government

The sculpture before and after the disastrous restoration, and now its latest restoration. Courtesy: Navarre regional government

One year on from a botched restoration of a 16th-century statue of Saint George – which became an internet sensation – the monument has finally been returned to its original condition.

Last June, the walnut-wood sculpture of St George, held in a church in the Spanish town of Estella, was entrusted to a local handicrafts teacher. Their disastrous attempt at restoring the artefact transformed the dragon-slayer into a familiar rosy-cheeked cartoon character. ‘This is an expert job, it should have been done by experts,’ the town’s mayor said. The Association of Conservators and Restorers of Spain described it as demonstrating ‘a frightening lack of training of the kind required for this sort of job.’

Now the Guardian reports that the statue of St George has been restored to its pre-2018 state. Carlos Martínez Álava, the head of the Navarre government’s historic heritage department, told the paper: ‘Today, the statue has the same colours it had before last year’s extremely unfortunate intervention. But we know that we’ve lost part of the original paint along the way’. He estimated that it had taken 1,000 hours of further restoration work to recover the sculpture.

Spain has been hit by a number of botched art restoration attempts in recent years, which have become viral sensations online – most infamously in 2012 when an elderly hobby painter transformed Elías García Martínez’s Ecce Homo fresco in Borka into ‘Monkey Jesus’.

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2019
Janiva Ellis, Catchphrase Coping Mechanism, 2019, oil on linen, 2.2 x 1.8 m. Courtesy: the artist and 47 Canal, New York; photograph: Joerg Lohse

frieze magazine

May 2019

frieze magazine

June - July - August 2019