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Are church restorers “taking the mickey”, conservationists ask 

PAGE 19 Are church restorers  taking the mickey

This pink-faced cherub with raised eyebrows and jet black hair has caused an almighty row between church leaders and conservationists in Spain as its strange appearance is likened to two botched restoration jobs.

The very un-angelic face has come to light in the parish of Reinosa in Cantabria and is situated high up on a wall, above the altar and sandwiched between other more traditional sculptures.

Elderly residents of the town say it has been there for years but others are not so sure and feel someone is “taking the mickey” following controversies over the restoration of the famous “Ecce Homo” (“Beyond the Man”) painting in Borja in Zaragoza and more recently, a botched restoration of a statue of St George and the Dragon in Navarra.

The Professional Association of Conservators of Spain says it cannot understand how anyone could have been instructed to depict a cherub in this way and says its appearance above the altar “detracts from its dignity”.

The organisation believes the go-ahead was given by the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Cantabria to replace an angel which went missing and claims it shows “an alarming lack of control by those who authorise intervention projects in listed environments.”

However, council officials say a fuss is being made about nothing and they don’t consider it a badly executed restoration, especially as it is high up and not easily seen. They say there are other more serious conservation issues to spend time on.

They also refute any comparisons with the “Ecce Homo” in the tiny village of Borja.

The village hit the headlines in 2012 when its cherished painting was renamed “Ecce Mono” (“Beyond the Monkey”) because of its very strange facelift.

Octogenerian Cecilia Gimenez only had the best of intentions when she tried to restore and repair damage to the portrait of Christ which is more than a century old.

Unfortunately, the work by the amateur painter didn’t go exactly to plan.

The spectacularly bad results garnered worldwide attention and was dubbed one of “the worst art restoration projects of all time”.

There was similar controversy when a statue of St George and the Dragon in the church of San Miguel de Estella in Navarra was given a new-look later likened to a puppet.

The statue, dating back 500 years, was originally decorated in an ancient style known as “polychrome” in which different colours are used but needed urgent restoration because of its advanced deterioration.

The restoration was undertaken by a small art school at the request of the local priest.

The Navarra culture department admitted it looked like a fairground carousel ride and proper restoration is now underway.

Back in Cantabria, the congregation of the parish church of San Sebastian have dubbed the cherub the “Ecce Homo Reinosano” and wonder if it will bring tourists to the town like in the other two cases and swell the church’s coffers.

But parish priest of Reinosa, Eduardo Guardiola believes it is a fuss over nothing. He says a replacement for the missing cherub was created in the most simplest of forms so as not to detract from the other eight traditional angels and points out “a telescope would be needed to see it”

It is thought the cherub might have been painted on the wall in 2011 during restoration of the altar area ordered by the Ministry of Culture of the Cantabrian Government from a travelling restoration workshop.