28 August 2012

"Ecce reparationem" - updated

An elderly parishioner has stunned Spanish cultural officials with an alarming and unauthorised attempt to restore a prized Jesus Christ fresco.

Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) by Elias Garcia Martinez has held pride of place in the Sanctuary of Mercy Church near Zaragoza for more than 100 years.

The woman took her brush to it after years of deterioration due to moisture. Cultural officials said she had the best intentions and hoped it could be properly restored. Cecilia Gimenez, who is in her 80s, was reportedly upset at the way the fresco had deteriorated and took it on herself to "restore" the image.

She claimed to have had the permission of the priest to carry out the job. "(The) priest knew it! He did! How could you do something like that without permission? He knew it!"
You can read the rest of the story (and see a video interview of the woman) at the BBC.

Addendum:  Reposted from five days ago to add this most interesting information from a writeup at The History Blog:
City officials are bringing in professional restorers Monday to see if Cecilia Giménez’s “restoration” can be undone. Prospects are grim. The original work is a hundred years old and it was done directly on the unprepped wall with oil paints. There’s a reason frescoes are made with pigment applied to wet plaster; oil on wall tends to flake right off.

If it can’t be re-restored, that might be a boon for the city. “The world’s worst restoration” has a growing fan club now. It has become a major tourist attraction and subject of a Change.org petition to keep the new version rather than allow restorers to revert it back to the original. As the petition puts it: The daring work of the spontaneous artist in the Ecce Homo of the Sanctuary of Mercy of Borja is an endearing and a loving act, a clever reflection of political and social situation of our time. It reveals a subtle critique of creationist theories of the Church...

Anyway it’s not like the original is a masterpiece, despite what some of the more sensationalistic headlines said when the story first broke. It has more sentimental value than artistic or historical significance. Elias Garcia Martinez was a fairly well-known local painter of traditional-style popular works in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was a professor at the Fine Arts School of Zaragoza from 1894 until his retirement in 1929, and he and his family used to vacation in Borja during the summer break. One of those summers he spent two hours painting Christ with a crown of thorns on a church wall...
I understand there are suggestions that the church will opt to leave the restoration in place, and place on the wall a photograph of the original painting.  All of which raises some interesting questions about the nature of art and how we value it.

Photo of tourists via Peregrino.


  1. The original looks like the Guido Reni's Jesus from a different angle.

    The restoration is a brilliant catastrophe. It should be preserved and donated to a modern art museum.

  2. I wonder what an art museum run by historians and restoration officials suffering from dementia would look like.

    1. Perhaps like this:


  3. Poor woman was confused. She thought she was restoring Van Gogh's self-portrait.

  4. They say God works in mysterious ways...

    Monkey Jesus has bought so much joy to my life in the last week or so. Even so much I got the giggles at work because I thought of him.
    Isn't bringing joy to people what Jesus wanted?

    Also,now that church is on the international map and if I were in Spain, I would see Monkey Jesus in person and leave a donation.

  5. Nearly the exact same thing happened to DaVinci's Last Supper. Several attempts were made to "restore" it over the centuries by painting right over the top of it. In several places artists brushed out details (like Thomas' left hand) and changed the color of the disciple's clothes and hair.

    The masterpiece has quite a dramatic and tragic history. At one point during WWII, a bomb shattered much of the building it was in, and the iconic mural stood exposed to sun and rain.

    It took over 20 years to remove the over-paintings along many layers of shellack, wax, and glue, as well as soot and mold. The story of the restoration is quite interesting:


  6. A delightful tumblr dedicated to further restorations sprang up overnight: http://beastjesus.tumblr.com/page/8


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