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. Bill

    I guess this is what happens when you commision an artist who is almost the same age as the work you are trying to restore. She obviously was a fan of Elmo.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mev

    One has to wonder what the intention was of the person who restored this, because it appears that she finger painted this while blindfolded. I feel sorry for the family of the original artist, the article says that they still live there; to see a priceless artwork destroyed is a horrible feeling,but to the family, this must be heartbreaking. Hopefully next time they'll hire a professional restoration team to restore their frescoes.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      Oh, sometimes people think your an "artist" just because you are seen wielding paint brushes from time to time. I know a lot of people who just doodle around with stuff. The priest should not have told her to restore the painting if she was not a professional restorer.

      August 23, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      I noticed she did make an effort and took a bit of liberty at the bottom of the painting by adding another end of the scroll. The only thing is that she has it folding the wrong direction.

      August 23, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Michael

    Just another example of sheeple going with the flock. Clearly she has no artisitc skill but because her parishioner told her to resotre it she did it. She could have said no and suggested they find a professional, but she just couldn't think herself.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  4. Fakzzzme

    this is hilarious..

    August 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      What an idiot-!!! If the job is too big or beyond your ability find a proffesional. Knowing ones limitations is a novel concept Id call this vandilism and sentance her prision!

      August 23, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ann

      I know. I cannot stop laughing!

      August 23, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • bill

      @Jim – your limitations are clearly spelling and grammar.

      August 23, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Nora

    I just keep laughing every time I read about this. The woman who made the "restoration" is an octogenarian who obviously can´t see well. And I just picture her like Mr Bean´s grandma.

    August 23, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. banasy©

    I like the guy who said they should keep it in its current state as a tourist attraction...
    Now that's a glass half full kinda guy...

    August 23, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Kevin H

    I'm shocked, Europe is filled with well qualified, very gifted restorers. I myself went to the ancient walled city Rothenburg ob-der-Tauber and met a very pleasant man on the way who was an art restorer. We chatted convivially and later I dined with he and an aunt. We had an incredible conversation about art restoration – they were having a convention at the Rothenburg city hall which was large enough for a small regional gathering. I find it bizarre that in Spain, a country that has numerous art historians, artists and art restorers that such an evil thing could happen.

    August 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Banner

      You, yourself? Not you, someone else?

      August 23, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rebeca

      It wasn't evil, it was an 80 year old "hands-on" woman. Why she thought she had to do this -the priest denies asking her- and, more importantly, why she thought she could actually fix the painting is beyond comprehension.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. seyedibar

    probably closer to what Jesus actually looked like.
    I kid. Jesus never existed.

    August 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOBBY

      so thats what a person who never existed looks like

      August 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. CrystalClear008

    Typical problem with elderly people ..they think they know everything and think they are right always and others wrong.

    August 23, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. serdich

    ...whats the problem ..it looks good..its legit..

    August 23, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Actually it looks a bit like some of the Picasso's that I have seen......

      August 23, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. BOBBY

    Now everyone will think its a Picasso.

    August 23, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jesus H Christ

    Now you all know the secret, the H stands for "Hobo"

    August 23, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mortran

    Great example how art has developed from the 19th to the 21st century!

    August 23, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Adam

    She should have just used photoshop.

    August 23, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ann

    Dear Candidate,

    Thank you for your application for art restorer. We see you are a self starter and admire your determination and drive to finish what you start. However, your lack of rudimentary painting skills cannot go unnoticed. At thi
    s time, neither the Mona Lisa nor any of our other beloved and treasured paintings need this “treatment.” Good luck in securing employment in your chosen field.

    Sincerely,

    The Louvre Art Director

    August 23, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
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