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Botched Restoration Leaves Ancient Mosaics Looking Like Cartoons

A tweet by Simone Wilson comparing one of the botched mosaics to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (via simone_elektra/Twitter)
A tweet by Simone Wilson comparing one of the botched mosaics to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (via simone_elektra/Twitter)

It’s been nearly three years since an ill-trained restorer bestowed Beast Jesus upon the world (wide web), but now a mosaic artist in southern Turkey is calling attention to the similarly cartoonish makeover given to Roman mosaics at the Hatay Archaeology Museum. Mehmet Daşkapan told the Antakya Gazetesi that about 10 of the artworks recently restored by the museum — which has the world’s second-largest mosaic collection — have been left looking like “caricatures of their former selves,” BBC News reports.

“Valuable pieces from the Roman period have been ruined,” he added. “Some are in an especially poor condition and have lost their originality and value … The panel that I saw could not have been the original mosaic from the second century. Some of its stones are missing, while others have been misplaced, creating a discordant look.”

"Restored" mosaics at the Hatay Archaeology Museum (via CarlavanderWaal/Twitter)
A mosaic before (left) and after (right) a recent restoration at the Hatay Archaeology Museum (via CarlavanderWaal/Twitter)

According to Mustafa Bozdemir, the deputy director of the heritage and museums department of Turkey’s Culture Ministry, an investigation has been launched into the allegations. “Necessary information will be provided once the commission completes its investigation,” he said in a statement quoted by the Hürriyet Daily News. In the meantime, the ministry has suspended all restoration work at the museum, and the governor has ordered the galleries with the controversial mosaics — which have been left with more pronounced facial expressions and contours, and more muted colors — closed to the public. A Culture Ministry official told Hürriyet that the company responsible for the restoration had employed “erroneous practices.”

Defending the company’s work, a member of the team that restored the Hatay mosaics alleged that the images appearing in Turkish media had been manipulated. He also claimed that his team had successfully undone the damage of French restorers who, in the 1930s, had added painted stones where tiles were missing and varnished the mosaics. According to the restorer, the mosaics’ new muted tones, pronounced contours, and missing sections are more accurate.

While experts investigate the merits of varying restoration practices, the artworks have been the subject of ridicule. Selçuk Erdem, a cartoonist with the magazine Penguen, tweeted: “Perhaps, the restoration’s target was to liken him to [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan.”

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