Fresco restoration turned awry


Original painting (L), restoration attempt (R)

Original painting (L), restoration attempt (R)

It used to be a painting that called the attention of every visitor going inside the Sanctuary of Mercy Church of Borja, Zaragoza in Spain.

It is a fresco (mural painting) done by Spanish painter Elias Garcia Martinez in 1930 portraying Jesus Christ crowned with thorns.

Admittedly, the painting was of little importance to the world, it being the artwork of a less renowned artist, but it remained the pride of the village and the focus of devotion, even in its obscurity and deteriorating condition, until somebody came along and offered to restore it a year ago.

Since then, what used to be solitary and irrelevant fresco to many outside of Zaragosa quietly named Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) has now become identified and made famous by another name, Ecce Mono (Behold the Monkey).

The culprit responsible for disfiguring the original fresco is Cecilia Giménez, an 80-year-old amateur artist living locally, who miserably failed to restore the portrait of Christ to its original appearance.

Like everybody else who have seen it, I could not help but break a loud laughter looking at the supposedly ‘restored’ fresco. It simply is a classic case of an artist having a good intention, but whose execution has gone awry.

What was significant before has now become insignificant, and solemnity has turned to alacrity, what with the fresco itself becoming a tourist attraction.

It has been reported that the disfigured fresco has drawn more than 40,000 visitors and raised more than $70,000 for a local charity in the town of Borja since gaining worldwide attention.

Entrepreneurs are commercializing the funny situation by putting the Ecce Mono likeness on merchandise it hopes will sell for years to come, like, T-shirts and cellphone covers, coffee mugs, plates, postcards, cigarette lighters, etc.

The local government is said to have gone already charging an entrance fee of $1.30, giving the money to the Sancti Spiritus charitable foundation, which uses the windfall to help pay bills at a care home for 60 elderly people.

As to Gimenez, she and a local council are to sign a deal to share profits from merchandise featuring the image, with the artist getting 49 percent and the council the rest.

Not bad at all for an incompetent and bungling old woman artist.


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