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. M2M

    She's trying to tell everyone that Jesus was an Eskimo.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
  2. BoundGodsFan

    Maybe someone can decoupage on a copy and cover it up.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
  3. Fantasy Buster

    I don't think I have laughed so hard in years! This is truly a funny as hell (no pun intended) story! I'm very sorry for the loss of an irreplaceable masterpiece, but damn what a laugh I just got. The face that she installed doesn't even look human, but of a creature only a demented old fart bag like her could concoct. I know she's old, but sometimes hatred of the elderly is justified.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  4. kso

    At least it's not as holey as it was before. trololololol

    August 24, 2012 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
  5. LizaMom

    So sad, but comical!

    August 24, 2012 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
  6. mccgeno

    It looks like a Picasso, only better. I love it! lol

    August 24, 2012 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
  7. 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 12:35 am | Report abuse |
    • I wonder

      A brilliant plan to get some Christian copy-artist to feel sorry for them and ride in on his/her white horse and save the day... and fix it for free!.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
    • mojojo

      When you have to pretty much remake the entire thing, it's not really a restoration. Restoration implies something of the original is still intact. This was utterly destroyed. There are no words for what has happened to this painting.

      And comparing restorations to forgeries is ridiculous.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
    • jdoe

      There's nothing ridiculous about the comparison. The act is the same, except that forgeries are done for illegal purposes, and restorations are not. Keep in mind that a work that may be hundreds of years old is already faded and degraded from its original condition. Restoring it to its faded condition doesn't mean restoring it to the original intention of the original artist. Depending on how deteriorated the work is, there may be some educated guesswork involved.

      August 24, 2012 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
    • I wonder

      "This was utterly destroyed. There are no words for what has happened to this painting."

      Nah,.. this cover-up probably will just wash off.

      August 24, 2012 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
  8. Mopery

    At least it's a little more accurate than the white Jesus we're used to seeing.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
  9. BoundGodsFan

    Moral of the story: Don't do everything your Father says.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
  10. BoundGodsFan

    Maybe this is a sign of his Second Coming and this is what he really looks like so we know what to look for.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  11. elvinmerij

    Old women are stupid. Old loud-mouthed European women are even stupider.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
  12. jack

    wow, what a stupid old bag. You'd think she's old enough to understand the difference between restoration and completely destroying. And what on earth convinced her that she had any talent. And how did the church think she had any talent?

    August 24, 2012 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
  13. Justin Ayers

    Restoration does not mean repainting the entire painting. It means filling in the missing bits, removing dirt, and such. I think what was done to the Sistine Chapel is a shame. The florid colors, for instance, do not match the original. Michaelangelo used iron oxide "earth" reds and such a great deal and the modern synthetic quinacridone pinks and such that the repainters used really changed the character of the piece for the worse. There is a critical line between genius and ordinary and "restorers" who dare to repaint simply cannot claim to be geniuses. The Expulsion from Eden is another example of this "restoration" gone wrong. Although I dislike the subject matter, the original has considerably more detail, particularly in the way the bodies are shadowed. That detail has been lost.

    At this point, though, the closest thing to restoration will be to paint a new painting that copies the original. I would

    August 24, 2012 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
    • jdoe

      It depends on how deterioted the original work is. Some restorations are practically copies of the original. Some are even done with a certain amount of educated guesswork. As long as the essense of original work is there, it would be much better than doing nothing about it.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
    • jdoe

      Correction: ...deteriorated...

      August 24, 2012 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  14. NorCalMojo

    I think they should let her finish and keep it. It's a great part of the history of the church now.

    It was a beautiful painting but it's not like there's a shortage of beautiful paintings of Jesus. Her creation is entirely unique.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
    • 1question

      Unfortunately, I think she did "finish" it.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
  15. NeededAGoodLaugh

    I love it... Thank you CNN... I am laughing so hard I can barely type this... Every time I look at the photo I giggle so hard tears come from my eyes... I'm almost scared to look at it again... Hate to laugh myself to death...

    August 24, 2012 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
    • BoundGodsFan

      I know, I laugh, cough, laugh more, cough.....

      August 24, 2012 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
    • gf

      ditto. i die every time i see this. of laughter. love this. hysterical. jesus has a neck beard? hahahahahahhaha

      August 24, 2012 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
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