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. Rabbi Ashmedai Ben Hashatan

    I don't like christianity but I do like old catholic art. This restoration is a total piece of crap. If you know you can't do something that is delicate and requires skill, don't try. Especially not on something like this.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • DK

      The meaning behind the art was more important than the art itself. It's just a painting.. not something to be worshiped.

      August 23, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. DK

    Reading the comments it appears you all need to pay more attention to the words of jesus, than art articles on cnn. Bunch of judges and hypocrites..

    August 23, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Becki

      Artwork is critiqued and judged. Get over it.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
    • DK

      You need to get over yourself more than I need to get over this..

      August 24, 2012 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
    • kl

      i hope you have hobbies other than replying to every single comment you disagree with. if you think someone shouldn't care about a painting of jesus, then you REALLY shouldnt care about anonymous comments left on the internet. because that is about 1000x lower in terms of importance.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
    • none2

      Are you off your meds or something? This has nothing to do with worshiping Jesus, Mary, Joseph. It could just as easily been a painting of Juan Valdez holding a can of Folgers Coffee The art restorer is a hack and shouldn't be touching ANYBODY's ART not even with a 10 foot pole on her paint roller.

      August 24, 2012 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
  3. Hookie dokie

    Thanks for tying in Mr. bean and clips. I was already chuckling at the real situation and Mr. Bean mitigated the

    August 23, 2012 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. RobK


    August 23, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Shaolin Sword

    I can’t even imagine what the baby Jesus must have looked like. Clearly the three wise men dropped their Frankincense and myrrh–along with anything else that might have been weighing them down–and then ran like hell in the opposite direction. This is why we have Christmas.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Isla

    This is upsetting as a christian.. I could have done a better job.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • DK

      If your a christian you shouldn't really be caring about a painting... can't take it with you.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  7. expert_art_conservation

    It's not THAT bad. it is a bit different, because it includes the bottom of the scroll, which corrects the mistake of the original. The original does not have the bottom of the scroll curved. But the new one improves that aspect of it. It's not as skilled as the old one, but i do like the improvement of the bottom of the scroll.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Becki

    She's no artist.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
    • DK

      Jesus wasn't an artist either.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  9. Steve


    August 24, 2012 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  10. Rhiannon

    Too much communion that afternoon....

    August 24, 2012 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  11. Truth

    The new one looks more appealing than the sad jesus with thorns stuck in his head. I always wondered how many children were terrified by this grotesque imagery and immediately became nonbelievers.

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

    She purposely destroyed it. There is no other explanation. She was asked to RESTORE the painting, not to put her own interpretation on it. Saying that "others saw her work" is no excuse.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  13. Kenny

    Its very close if you look at it out of focus. I suspect the restorer may need glasses.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  14. thatguy

    This is why we don't let women do things

    August 24, 2012 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
    • danrick

      bad answer, but it made me laugh!

      August 24, 2012 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
  15. deejay76

    Jesus wept.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
    • DK

      For you and your awful comments maybe..

      August 24, 2012 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
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