They have been likened to children’s toys or the contents of a Kinder Surprise. But these are the newly “restored” 15th and 16th century wooden carvings of an Asturias church, following the intervention of a well-meaning parishioner.
Church authorities have been sent to survey the damage after the resident in the village of Rañadoiro was given permission to take the carvings home for a revamp, resulting in what specialists have called “an absolute disaster”.
A figure of the Virgin Mary – previously in a plain wooden finish – now sports a shocking pink robe, the Infant Jesus in her arms dressed in garish green.
In another carving, the mother of Christ has been turned from brunette to platinum blonde, her clothes updated to a soft rose hue in a makeover that has drawn comparisons to Barbie.
The government of the autonomous community in northern Spain said Friday it had opened an investigation into why the parishioner was allowed to undertake the restoration works despite having no experience.
Genaro Alonso, the Asturias education and culture counsellor, expressed his “obvious displeasure” at what he described as a “mess”.
The parishioner responsible, named by the Asturias paper El Comercio as María Luisa Menéndez, has defended her efforts, insisting the villagers had been pleased with the results.
“I am not a professional, simply the figures were horrifying and I wanted to paint them to make them better,” Ms Menéndez, who runs a local news stand, told El Comercio.
Another parishioner, who lent his support to Ms Menéndez, said she spent more than a year working on them as she had to give them “several coats”.
Luis Suárez Saro, the expert who undertook the last professional restoration of the carvings in 2003, lamented that they had “an enormous historical and artistic value” and were now covered in “a modern paint, of the kind used to paint houses or furniture”.
Mr Suárez said it was unclear whether the figures would be able to be salvaged, especially as two of them already had paint finished.
It is not the first time that amateur restoration works have raised eyebrows in Spain.
In 2012, Cecilia Giménez, an octogenarian resident of the Aragonese town of Borja, shot to international infamy with her attempt to restore a 100-year-old fresco of Jesus.
The incident, and the inadvertent boon for the town’s fortunes as thousands of tourists flocked to see the botched work, has since been made into a comic opera.