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 “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.

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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. Pam Drapala

    My goodness, leave well enough alone. Don't restore art, it ruins them, and they lose their beauty, and their value.

    August 23, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lover of art

      Totally agree!

      August 23, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. umm- --

    A bit of further investigation would have shown that this was, in fact, nothing at all like a "masterpiece". But Jesus does now look good in a warm, furry hat!

    August 23, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. EvilPug

    I like this quote by BBC Correspondent – "The once-dignified portrait now resembles a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic."

    August 23, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. wade long

    That's ok, the first one doesn't look like Jesus either. How do I know? Because no one does...

    August 23, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Johnster

    This has got to be the parishioner from hell.

    August 23, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Wayne

    Didn't anybody ever walk by and see what she was doing, and think "wow, that looks like crap"? Why didn't somebody stop her?

    August 23, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. wildone

    People are so unkind. I'm sure she didn't mean to damage the painting. And besides, nobody really knows what Jesus looked like anyway. It was just some artists rendition. No big deal.

    August 23, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Timmy

      Maybe she should be in charge of all Vatican restorations in the future then?

      August 23, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lover of art

      You obviously have zero appreciation for classic art. It's a shame what happened.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  8. DavidT

    This is completely indistinguishable from intentional vandalism, and should be treated that way. What she did is an abomination...seriously it doesn't try to even resemble the original. The only thing is, if what she is saying is true, and the priest did ask her to do it but is now just denying that and throwing her under the bus, then it's he who should be blamed, and twice as much.

    August 23, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • ck

      She was not trying to be malicious. If you feel that strongly about it, start doing some fundraising to have a forger restore it.

      August 23, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Aristocles

    It looks like Picasso restored it. That's not a compliment.

    August 23, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. korke aika

    people are so ridiculous. Who cares what jesus looked like? that's not the point. this was a work of art, and someone finger painted over it. it would not matter if it were of bozo the clown. you just don't do that. now jesus looks like an eskimo with a bad perm

    August 23, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lover of art

      You're so right!

      August 24, 2012 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  11. Justin

    Let's face it, she has given many more people much more to talk about, many more hearty laughs, in 10 minutes than the original, unoriginal, forgettable, run of the mill painting had done in 100 years. Art that nobody truly enjoys is just an amalgamation of toxic chemicals on canvas.

    August 23, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lover of art

      Run of the mill? I'd like to see you try and paint it! This was classic and in a church no less. Have some respect.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  12. rocinante

    Its just some no-name artist from the 20th century... who cares? There's about 100 million portraits of Jesus by no-name artists throughout the world, particularly in churches.

    Just spackle over it and hire another no-name artist from the 20th century, no harm done.

    August 23, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeeeebus

    This is simply HILARIOUS!!!! I can only imagine it was done in "his" image. HAHAHAHAHA.....maybe gawd willed it to be this way for some mystical reason. This made my day!!!

    August 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Timmy

      HA HA I agree totally !!!

      August 23, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. LPL

    I am sorry but I think I can do a better job... Obviously she meant well but she wasn't the right person for the job.

    August 23, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Alina1

    If they would leave alone this painting, in 100 years it would be become as famous as original was, its already is. Plus nobody knows what Jesus looked like anyways.

    August 23, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
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