This "restoration" of a 16th century statue at a Spanish church is really... something

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The artist seems to have confused St. George with St. Thomas:


Monkey Jesus is alive! Praise God!


Too bad it doesn’t have a full visor to lower down in the meantime.

Okay, I get the art historian side, and yes, a professional restoration and stabilization was probably a better option.

However, let’s talk about vernacular religious art. When this parish commissioned the original statue, they probably gave the commission to a local - that statue isn’t a Michaelangelo or Cellini. They paid someone local to build it, everyone in town was either happy or not - everyone’s a critic - and everything got dusted a few times a month, cleaned a few times a year, polished when appropriate, touched up. For probably 300 or 400 years. People who worshipped with this statue had a personal connection to it. They asked this Saint George for intercession. Lit candles in his niche, asked for his courage in battle, prayed that he would poke Jesus on their behalf, and for him to watch over their loved one at war.

But starting with the Romantics in the early 19th century, and spreading throughout the art world over the next century, the value of wear became paramount. Old things are better and should look old and we shouldn’t touch them and if we do, the person doing the touching must be a professional from far away who has specific expertise… It’s a means of separating the laity from a personal expression of faith. If one cannot touch and experience a representation of one’s deity and saints, they become remote. It’s why there’s not a lot of recent art in most churches now. Nobody wants to run the risk of being mocked for having the temerity to express one’s faith in glass, stone, plaster or paint. And that is sad.

But this is local, religious art, for a local population of people who care about this St George. So the argument is probably the same one that was had 500 years ago. The local carver made a St George, got paid for it, and half the town said, “I don’t like it. It’s creepy. It’s eyes follow you.” And then everyone got used to it and got over it, and he became their St George once again.


As I recall, that site experienced a huge boom in tourism after the story spread. The parish authorities in this case are probably most pleased that they are also drawing attention.


I’m sure from the standpoint of an art historian the restoration was ill-advised, but frankly it looks pretty much like the original – it’s not at all as bad as the “Monkey Jesus” fresco that it is being compared to.


Agreed, but I think the addition of a Jack Elam-level lazy-eye is a bit much.


"We make local statues for local people. We’ll have no trouble here!


Maybe one of these would help.


I appreciate your thoughtfully and apparently well-informed comment. The only part I would quibble with is this bit in the middle:

I think it’s reductive, especially as compared with the rest of your observations. Even before the Romantics, there was value in old works (you yourself pointed out that St. George would have been touched up over the centuries, not tossed and replaced). People on the “grand tour” weren’t visiting the Acropolis just because it was pretty—it was also historic, meaning old. They and the Pre-Raphaelites certainly did bump the market in deliberately fake-old buildings, paintings, and statues, but they were all about the touching! How could you assure the pater you’d really spent his money improving your mind on the tour if you didn’t bring back a rock chipped off the Pantheon?

I would suggest that the emphasis on professional restoration has much less to do with “separating the laity from personal expressions of faith” than with available means. Before the industrial revolution goosed chemical innovation, the available tools of restoration were pretty much whatever you had around. Newer solvents were more volatile, less available, and required some knowledge for use. (I am not a restorer, but my best friend is a textile conservator who often has to contend with previous generations’ ideas of a good way to preserve things. Some of which would actually hasten the destruction.)

As for the decline in new commissions for religious art, surely it’s at least a factor that there are now ample venues for art outside the Church that weren’t there in the 16th century. Plus, everybody’s used to this George. They don’t want a new one, they want the one they’re accustomed to.


I think it looks rather good. It’s much fresher, and has a certain appeal that the old one didn’t.

It’s a zillion times better than the thing in the reference link.


At least it’s not as bad as this…



Considering how much cultural heritage the Spanish church actively went out and destroyed during the colonial period I think this is pretty much a drop in the bucket.


Yeah, I am definitely of the modern conservationist school, thinking that restorations should never destroy. But I think the real problem here is that polychrome statues have always been ugly as fuck, which is only slightly tempered by a nice patina of age.


Ignoring the authenticity of the paint itself. The Colors are probably what the original looked like.
When they restored the replica Athena at the Parthenon in Nashville, people were up in arms, saying it was garish and cartoon like—which exactly what the historical Parthenon was including the bright colors. (They tested historical paint chips found at the site)

And if anything they toned it down a bit for the battle of Centaurs and the other exterior bits.


Just a quick google for Parthenon in color. Nashville did a projection show to paint the building in historically accurate colors. However it came with a off switch.

The thing was designed to grab the peasants by the eyeballs.


Sir, I salute you.


That reminds me of the statues outside the mansion of the Sheik of Beverly Hills:

[@jlw: I know you remember that one!]