Church masterpiece 'restored' as Mr. Bean would do it
Pictures provided by the Center for Borja Studies show the original version of the painting Ecce Homo, by 19th-century painter Elias Garcia Martinez, from left, the deteriorated version the center recently documented, and the version "restored" by a parishioner.
August 23rd, 2012
10:54 AM ET

Church masterpiece 'restored' as Mr. Bean would do it

The efforts of an elderly parishioner to restore a 120-year-old fresco on a column inside a Spanish church have some wondering if a Mr. Bean movie was the inspiration for the effort.

The fresco, titled Ecce Homo (Behold the Man), is a depiction of Jesus Christ with a crown of thorns. It was painted on a wall of the Sanctuary of Mercy at Borja, near Zaragoza, Spain, by artist Elias Garcia Martinez more than a century ago.

Its troubling "restoration" occurred after the local Center for Borja Studies received the donation of a canvas done by Garcia from one his granddaughters who lives nearby, according to the center's blog.

Center staff noted that the only other known work by Garcia in the area was Ecce Homo, went to the church to photograph the fresco, and realized it was in bad shape.

Parishioner Cecilia Giménez said she was asked by the church to fix things up.

“The priest was aware … he knew,” she is quoted as saying in a report on Euronews.com. “Of course I did it because I was told to do it."

In its blog, the center expresses "astonishment" that "an intervention was done" on the painting.

"As unbelievable as it sounds, this is what remains of the work of an artist whose relatives still live in our city," the blog reads.

Giménez said her work was done in the open and nobody tried to stop her, according to Euronews.

"Everybody that came into the church saw me. I never tried to hide,” she is quoted as saying.

"Clearly, she has destroyed the painting," Garcia's granddaughter, Teresa Garcia, is quoted as saying.

The center says it doesn't know if the "restoration" can be fixed.

"We don’t know if this indescribable act has a solution, but there is no doubt that someone should adopt strict measures so that there is not a repetition of acts like this, which despite its intentions, should be strongly condemned," its blog says.

But in reader comments on the blog, some wonder whether the "restoration" is a repetition of a previous act, one from the 1997 Rowan Atkinson film "Bean."

“Something similar happened in the movie Mr. Bean. … It probably inspired whoever did this,” one commenter writes.

In the movie, Mr. Bean accidentally sneezes on the masterpiece "Whistler's Mother" and attempts a crude repair.

The Ecce Homo "restoration" is arguably better than Bean's line drawing, and that might be just as well, because there's doubt that Ecce Homo can be returned to its original splendor. And at least one commenter on the blog sees a silver lining.

"I think that the city of Borja should conserve the painting in its current state," the person writes. "It could become a tourist attraction for the town.”

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Filed under: Art • Spain
soundoff (1,299 Responses)
  1. Mike Laven

    I'm not an art expert, but I think the restoration looks fine.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Haha @ Mike Laven

      August 23, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • ricardo1968

      Are you kidding? It's ghastly. It looks like an alien being from Star Wars.

      August 23, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • JPX

      I agree, I think she improved it! Instead of a depressing picture (as all religious pictures are) she made Jesus into a cute Ewok.

      August 23, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • no

      Agreed! This is a huge improvement!

      August 23, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • david

      Damn Straight

      August 23, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jesus

      Yup, it looks just like me. The earlier version was actually that of James. My face looks a bit distorted because it was. I never could get a babe to sit on my face. It was especially tough for a homely guy back then.

      August 23, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dilly

      Don't quit your day job!

      August 23, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • drake mallard

      Mr Bean did it

      During the night, Bean hatches his plan to restore Whistler's Mother. Bean gathers a few items from David's house and makes his way to the Grierson Art Gallery. Bean distracts the only security guard on duty by putting laxative in his coffee, followed by switching the men's bathroom keys with some other set. He removes the destroyed painting from its frame and replaces it with a poster version of itself, glossing it with an egg and varnish mix to make it appear authentic.

      August 23, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    OMG...*look* at that...
    It looks like my great-great grandmother from Russia...
    WHY is Jesus wearing eyeliner...?
    NOBODY noticed??
    Oh, my.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  3. asdf

    I think it was a really great job. I always envisioned Jesus as a cartoon character anyway.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • JPX

      Word. Jesus is a cartoon character.

      August 23, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. LMAO

    Dude, where's my beard?

    August 23, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Dirty Rotten Hippie

      Looks Amish

      August 23, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  5. Dirty Rotten Hippie

    LOL So whats the issue? Other than he's looking a different direction....Ummm.....awesome job, good for another 100 years.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  6. DesignMom

    Well the aphorism "The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions" comes to mind...

    August 23, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • dave in Ohio

      This is what happens when rank amateurs try to do more than they are capable of. Kinda like Obama in the white house.

      August 24, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Angela

    Nailed it.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  8. Dana

    What was the priest thinking asking a parishioner to restore a painting of value? Shouldn't they go ask for an expert? What?

    August 23, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      It is probably worth more now! It had a market value of <$150 before improvements!

      August 23, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Lone

      The person did it on their own, without consent. But for whatever reason no one stopped them.

      August 23, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Chris

    Been a painter for most of my life, and always dealing with archival issues, most of them unfortunately dating back to the 12th century. All this stuff is organic. When you add a layer, it binds to the existing layers to a greater or lesser extent in every case, and no-one has any clue about the artist's original intent, where they meant to end their process, any of it. Other than minor surface repairs, stay the hell away from all this stripping to "reveal the artist's original intent". You don't have a clue what that was. The worst is when they assume the original works were intended to have highly saturated colour, when glazing is meant to soften and mute that.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • asdf

      I'm sure the guy who did this would have no idea what you are talking about hahaha.

      August 23, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Chris, in this case, the artist's intent was clear by the painting on the left...

      August 23, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • possum

      But the Last Supper by Di Vinci sure looked more like a Di Vinci after it was cleaned..

      August 23, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mollystroud

    It looks like the mother from, "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo."

    August 23, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  11. Fish

    Did they mention the restoration was done by a 6 year old... Beautifully done for a 6 year old I think.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  12. bobcat (in a hat)©

    Why are people so intent on trying to portray how jesus looked ? Nobody has a clue, as there are no recorded images of him. What is the reason that it is so important that they know what he looks like ? His words are what is supposed to be the guidance.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • asdf

      and of course everybody ignores the fact that he would be black/arab and not white as usually depicted or semi-hispanic in this attempt.

      August 23, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Lone

      The same could be asked about anything that people find important and want a visual connection to. It doesn't change the message. The issue isn't of what Jesus looked like, but the destruction of fine art that was over a hundred years old.

      And of course someone has to insist on personal politics. The probabilities of the mans appearance does not change the iconography, and the resulting traditions, that go back nearly 1700 years. Painting a darker, Arabic man with thick, wool-like hair would have been less likely to get you a job than the long-time alternative.

      August 23, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jesus

      I was 5' 3" and 124 lbs,, very dark skinned, balding, lots of wild facial hair, big hook nose, and large ears.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
  13. Adam

    HAHAHAHAHA! I know this is tragic, but I cant help but laugh!!! It looks ridiculous!

    August 23, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  14. Amused1944

    No art lovers present here.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • DK

      Art is a waste of time..

      August 23, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Raymondo

    "It's so horribly sad. Why do I feel like laughing?" – North By Northwest (1959)

    August 23, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
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