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. AndriconBoy

    How do we know that isn't what Jesus really looked like? Are there any photographs, wood carvings, or paintings from when he was alive? Maybe this woman painted him exactly how her savior appeared to her in her dreams and visions? Maybe she was meant to paint her savior in his "true for" to reveal to the world his face prior to the second coming? Maybe God had her do it because he was tired of all the Euro-centric depictions of his son?

    If everything is part of God's plan, wasn't this meant to happen? For all you know, this could be the most perfect represenation of Jesus ever created.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Damian

      Well you raise a good point...........guess we'll never know........I'm sure her intentions were good.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Gee Gog

    Why is her interpretation any less important that those of the "Masters"? And it looks to me like a fine example of folk art. Why should "art" be defined by pretentious snobs? Art is created by the people and belongs to the people!

    August 24, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • A

      It'd be fine if she had made it originally. But she was supposed to be restoring an existing work, and therefore she created this new art on top of the original, effectively destroying the original.

      August 24, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • lbpauline

      Very smart question. Why some paintings are famous for their timeless esthetics and are protected in museums? It is because they are part of the human culture. Human culture is thought to be taught and studied. Who defined, defines and respects art is not a snobbish person, he/she might be someone that has a Master or PHD in arts, and believes in culture.
      You are the one who has a snobbish behavior full of ridiculous pretentiousness. Go to make a graffiti (if you know how) and relax.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. lbpauline

    This woman is an art criminal. Saying she tried to be helpful is not an excuse. The world is full of people who think to be good singers, painters, etc. but they are not able of any self-critics. I think the story is not complete though. How in the world can somebody restore an artwork without any control? Or this fresco might be just a copy.
    Can you imagine someone restoring a fresco of Giotto without any permit in Italy?

    August 24, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  4. Nature's Awe

    Everyone involved should receive the boot of God and be kiced to the curb. How rediculous to just hand off a work of art like this to just anyone. Why not let the first graders have a crack at it now, not much to lose anymore. What a terrible loss.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mary

    Come on folks. Give the elderly lady a break. She was asked to do it. She probably didn't know it was by some supposed known artist.
    The person, or persons, at this establishment are really the ones at fault for asking someone that wasn't an artist to fix this.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  6. saneCanadian

    No worse than what the Republicans have done to Christ's image

    August 24, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • lilyq

      You can't tarnish what is perfect.

      August 24, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  7. skeleton_pilot

    Whats with all of the finger pointing at Cecilia? The article lays it out for you. She was told to do it by her authority in the church. If she said no, they were just going to ask the next person to do it and hand out a punishment. Clearly the church priest didn't really care about the painting since he asked a random person in the local church to try and restore something of such original high quality and history. If you have to point a finger, aim it at the priest who didn't care enough about the painting and just sent anyone he could find to "clean it up". It makes me sad that this art piece was ruined and will likely be scrubbed off of the wall but it also makes me sad that this lady is being punished for following orders.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  8. HiJinx

    This is the funniest thing I've seen all week! I mean it's tragic: but for some reason I cannot stop laughing at the absurdity. HOw could someone let this woman destroy that artwork??!

    August 24, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  9. rdeleys

    Ha ha! What a sense of humor! Jesus the Magic Ape!

    August 24, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  10. lilyq

    I don't think it looks much different than a Picasso : )

    August 24, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  11. serdich

    the last one is more legit..it will fetch about million...

    August 24, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  12. Ohdear

    Speaking of crime against art, CNN, really? You embed pirated/unauthorized movie footage from Youtube on your articles now?

    August 24, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  13. Hugh Beaumont

    Turpentine!

    August 24, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  14. pedro

    hahaha..maybe this one should be called the evolution of jesus

    August 24, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sylvia

    Well done, Mrs. Bean! this is truly hilarious – if one could just forget about the importance and value of this exquisite piece of art.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • dicerotops

      Other reports have said that the painting wasn't of high value or artistic worth, which is probably why it had no protection on it. The commentator in the article had it right. I'd rather visit the fix than the original piece of art. I think its a cute story.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
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