Turkish company blames French after ‘botched’ mosaic restoration
Umut Erdem / Ömer Erbil - ISTANBUL
A Turkish company has claimed at least 10 Roman mosaics, held in the world’s second largest mosaic museum in Turkey’s southern city of Antakya in the province of Hatay, were not actually damaged, but are now even in even better condition than the previous restoration conducted by French experts.
Quoting mosaic craftsman Mehmet Daşkapan, a local newspaper in Antakya recently claimed that Turkish restorers “seriously damaged” several Roman mosaics during their restoration to be displayed in the Hatay Archaeology Museum, which was opened by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Dec. 28, 2014.
The Culture and Tourism Ministry launched an investigation into all mosaics at the museum over the report.
A ministry official confirmed to daily Hürriyet on May 4 that there had been “erroneous practices” during the restoration, which was mostly related to the “adding of [mosaic] pieces” into centuries-old originals. He also said the restorers were from the leading company in Turkey for such works with deep expertise and experience that includes the restoration of the renowned mosaics at Zeugma Mosaic Museum in southeastern Turkey, which was the largest of its kind in the world.
The team that restored the mosaics in Hatay, on the other hand, denied the claims, arguing the photographs published by Turkish media were manipulated.
Speaking to Hürriyet, a member of the team said the mosaics were restored by French experts in the 1930s. Contemporary restoration practices of the time included adding painted stones for missing pieces and varnishing the mosaic. After the 1980s, however, such practices were abolished and the Roman mosaics which they recently restored with modern techniques appear pale with missing pieces, which is actually closer to the original version, the expert claimed.
Among the mosaics are world-famous panels including one depicting the sacrifice of Isaac and another of Narcissus.
Kenan Yurttagül, a former head of Turkey’s Monuments and Museums General Directorate and who is also an archaeological restoration expert, confirmed the firm’s credentials. “The issue is in the phase of investigation and debate. After reports are prepared, errors, if there is any, will be reported and then fixed,” he told Hürriyet.
However, some have not been so patient on the issue.
“This is a massacre of history that may even affect the number of tourists who will visit Hatay,” Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy Şefik Çirkin said, blaming the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) “public tender mentality” and “civil service scandals.”