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. CrystalClear008

    1. For sure the painting is more popular than the original one. 2. I am so happy the Christain world is not attacking this 80 yr old lady but rather confirm her intentions were good. 3. If this painting was of a Muslim prohpet and some one done this to a Muslim Prophet then...?..

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

      Jesus is a prophet in Islam.

      August 23, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • StupidityShouldBePainful

      She'd have to work very hard to find a painting of a "Muslim Prophet" at a mosque. Since Islam, like all Abrahamic faiths, forbids the worship of graven images (remember the Ten Commandments?), mosques are decorated with geometric patterns and calligraphy, not idols.

      August 23, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. eaglesrule

    Like they say, you get what you pay for.

    August 23, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Oleg

    I think she did ok. Better than I could do.

    August 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. C.A.

    The restoration clearly looks like an alien gray hybrid. Maybe she's trying to tell us something.... ( o,O )

    August 23, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jimi

      LOL! I had the same tought when I saw the photo!

      August 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Philip

    Um, yeah. You guys go ahead and auction-off your luxuries afforded by gifts dedicated to God. Your "masterpiece" isn't even a finger painting in God's eyes, and his own son wasn't an art collector.You churches said to be in charge of feeding literal food in great abundance to the needy could feed a lot of hungry kids with your luxuriant dung even.
    Bannish Organized Profit-mongering religions of the world. Strip them of their luxuries and charge them for back taxes, at least for now. ty

    August 23, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Really

    Good thing Jesus didn't REALLY look like that!

    August 23, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Marvs257

    That is so beyond repair, even for professional restorers. The 3 dimensional head, the striking jawline, the cheekbones, have all ben flattened into a mere shape of an oval.

    August 23, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. spaz

    This is a joke, right?

    August 23, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • no

      Yes it is.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. james

    it must be restoreted using Mr. bean technique. just put an egg layered poster on the wall.

    August 23, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. funny

    This is your painting....... This is your painting on drugs........ any questions?

    August 23, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Adam

    "Asked to do it"..... I somehow doubt that anybody would ask an 80 year old woman to do ANYTHING requiring fine motor skills. Seriously, that lie isn't fooling anybody. More likely she overheard him commenting about how they 'needed to fix it' and took it completely out of context.

    As for people walking by her – it's actually a very well known phenomenon that is often exploited by thieves. You know the easiest way to rob someplace? Put on a workman's coveralls, walk straight up to the building, pick up whatever you are stealing, and walk right out. The vast majority of people just assume that you're supposed to be doing it and never question it. They probably walked right past her thinking, "She looks like she's supposed to be there, I won't worry about it."

    Even if it were true – come ON, even the stupidest person in the world would ask to see a sample of their skills before giving somebody permission to 'fix' a century old, one of a kind work of art.

    August 23, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bob

    Ha, ha, ha, ha! The world would be a more boring place if it didn't have dumb people. Even I with no artistic talent whatsoever would do a much, much better "restoration" job if I tried – but of course it wouldn't even cross my mind to try.

    August 23, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dani3l

    The point is not whether she did better than you could do, Oleg, but whether she could match Martinez in skill and technique. Plainly, she can't and the painting was destroyed – every trace of Martinez's artistry is gone. The result is a horror. No need to be nice about it. Artistically speaking, this is a disaster.

    August 23, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. J.C.

    Someone has insulted our prophet! We must avenge his memory by going on a riotous mass murder spree! Oh, wait... this isn't a picture of Mohammed?

    August 23, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Philip

    @C.A. 12:34..."Alien gray hybrid". LMAO
    Those weren't "little green men" found by the US Air Force found next to that crashed "UFO" near Roswell NM in 1947.

    That was a BMW model J38, and those were jewish women, products of decades of genetic research by Bayer AG.
    A mass grave of them are still buried beneath Bayer's world headquarters.
    The photgraphed inscription on the side of that identified flying object (BMW J38) translates in english as "Army of Women".

    August 23, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
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