Amateur restoration effort results in fiasco

A cautionary tale for do-it-yourselfers considering the unauthorized restoration of cultural relics:

An elderly Spanish parishioner recently took a brush to a famed fresco of Jesus Christ in her church and left the image resembling “a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic,” according to media reports.

Spanish cultural officials were stunned by the alarming and unauthorized attempt to restore Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) by Elias Garcia Martinez, which has held a place of pride in Santuario de la Misericordia, a Roman Catholic church in Borja, near the city of Zaragoza,  for more than 100 years, according to the BBC.

The effort was so inept that authorities in Borja said they first suspected vandalism, according to the New York Times.

Cecilia Gimenez, who is in her 80s, was reportedly upset at the way the fresco had deteriorated due to moisture and took it upon herself to “restore” the image.

She claimed to have had the permission of the priest to carry out the job, according to the BBC.

Cultural officials said she had the best intentions and hoped the work could be properly restored.

BBC Europe correspondent Christian Fraser said the delicate brush strokes of Elias Garcia Martinez have “been buried under a haphazard splattering of paint.”

After seeing the results of her handiwork, the woman contacted Juan Maria Ojeda, the city councilor in charge of cultural affairs.

Art historians are expected to meet at the church soon to discuss how to proceed.

“If we can’t fix it, we will probably cover the wall with a photo of the painting,” Ojeda said.

“Ecce homo, or behold the man, refers to an artistic motif that depicts Jesus, usually bound and with a crown of thorns, right before his crucifixion,” according to the New York Times.

The fresco is not thought to be very valuable, but has a high sentimental value for local people, the BBC added.

(Above: The three versions of the “ecce homo” fresco of Jesus. From left, the original version by Elías García Martínez, a 19th-century painter; a deteriorated version of the fresco; the “restored” version by an elderly Spanish parishioner. Photo credit: New York Times.)

6 thoughts on “Amateur restoration effort results in fiasco

    • I couldn’t resist writing about a story that described a restoration effort that turned out looking like “a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic.”

      Sounds like somebody’s going to be spending some time in Purgatory.

  1. That woman will find out soon enough if her god has a sense of humour!
    I find what she did both hilarious and horrible at the same time…

    • While I understand she meant well, I’m somewhat baffled by the idea that an amateur thought she could restore a prized piece of art, never mind a fresco, which are difficult enough to do in the first place.

      I’ve got a feeling that God looks down from Heaven at these types of situations and thinks, “If only this was the worst of what goes on down there.”.

  2. I worked in art supply store and believe me I saw many atrocities when people tried to fix what they thought they could, like the monkey Jesus, I saw a piano playing pig man. Great write-up. Cheers.

    • Someone brought in a piano-playing pig man and you were able to keep a straight face? I suppose they wanted you to fix it.

      I don’t know; that individual may have been ahead of their time. Perhaps the piano-playing pig man could have become the next “Dogs Playing Poker.”

      Thanks for your note and kind words.

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