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. anie

    The restoration looks like it is not complete. Let's not judge it until it is finished.

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

      it is done and the church in bringing in experts

      August 24, 2012 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
    • BorgKitten

      Are you serious? If you restore something, you restore the necessary parts, not the WHOLE thing!

      August 24, 2012 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  2. chillipepper

    She also painted the eyes of Alf on it.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  3. sudhabhavesh

    sad to know how someone as layman in art restoration as a kid just learnt to draw may destroy an artpeice

    August 24, 2012 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jesus

    Oh my god.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
  5. Norm

    I laughed hysterically until it sunk in what this brainless nitwit had done.
    "They told me to"????
    "They didn't stop me"????
    Have a brain you looney tunes
    My God..how can people BE so dumb.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  6. James

    Looks like a Joan Miro now.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Hookie dokie

      With touches of Francis Bacon.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  7. ready

    sigh.... militant atheists again. I am atheist and can't get how some atheists are religious atheists that do wild leaps in logic similar to christians.

    Its not about religion at all at this point. Its about restoring art and the cities heritage. DERP. Seriously is this not obvious to you? Oh wait you are fanatic religious atheists, forgot. Might as well be talking about the taliban and the merits of Buddhist statuary.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
    • DK

      Looking at the order or the universe it wouldn't be scientific to discount the possibility of a creator. Atheists need to get over themselves mostly.. then talk about facts.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  8. Hookie dokie

    Surely some wise Christians can laugh at goofy human foible, unintended to be malicious. For all we know the restorer
    thought ( and hoped) people would admire her effort. Human beings have been screwing up from the dawn of time;
    that makes us human.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  9. jdoe

    It CAN be restored. There are plenty of photographs of the original artwork. A competent restorer should be able to work from that. When you think about it, a restoration is simply a copy of the original painting, except done on the original surface instead of something else. There have been instances of forged paintings that are done so well it's mistaken for the original.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. StayinAlive

    Repaint thou thinner.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  11. Georjetset

    Absolutely ridiculous...shame on them, what a pitiful joke.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jesus

    Facepalm.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
  13. Penny Nickels

    The restoration artist must have watched too many Simpsons cartoons. "Hey look, it's Flintstone Jesus!"

    August 24, 2012 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
  14. Johnny Cage

    I can't stop laughing at that painting. its the funniest thing i've ever seen! hahaha

    August 24, 2012 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
  15. Epidi

    Oh MY! Didn't anyone find out if she could even do such work first? Soemtimes you DO get what you pay for.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
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