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 “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.

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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. Ronda Whitter

    I bet if they test this painting they will see that it is not the same painting at all.

    August 24, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • You can't be serious.

      It's a fresco painted ON the plaster covering the wall. If someone stole it- they would have had to chip out a piece of the stone- and that's IF they could have kept the plaster from shattering while they were doing it.

      Besides- if someone wanted to steal it- why in the hell would they replace it with something that draws attention?? The point of replacing an item at all is so that no one suspects anything happened... This is kinda the opposite

      August 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • latricoteuse

      I wondered about that for a minute, but remembered it is a fresco

      August 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. gutterboy

    'Parishioner Cecilia Giménez said she was asked by the church to fix things up'
    Maybe they meant to hire someone?...not actually restore it yourself? You gotta think things through. If they asked her at a Ford plant to 'fix things up' would she have tried to build a car?

    August 24, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. coffeedude

    I have 4 grand daughters under 5 years old that could do better than this.

    August 24, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. C5qu4r3d

    Hahahahahaha!!! hilarious

    August 24, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. kevin

    I must pose this question: How did she know when the restoration was complete? At which point would that have been? After the third litre of wine.? When we were kids we served as alter boys and we would take a swig or two from the service wine when we could. He He. I just can't leave this one alone.....I'll still be laughing when my head hits the pillow this evening. Chuckling away.... Poor Lady...I hope she's not reading these posts.

    August 24, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jay

    The poor woman who was charged with this duty of "fixing things up" shouldn't be to blame here. She never said she was an artist. She was a member of the church trying to do the right thing. Yet the elitist snobs who run these Historical and Art Societies are putting the blame on her. Where were they in the midst of all the "fixing up"? I'd say there are more people to blame then the one holding the paintbrush.

    August 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Logic

      If my boss tells me to "get the sink in the break room fixed" I don't grab a wrench and jump in...I use my resources and source a competent plumber.

      If my wife says "Fix up the fan in the attic" I would find an electrician...

      August 24, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • PF

      Ummm, no. There are so many things this woman could have done to avert this hilarious disaster. Forging ahead and ruining the original was a pretty silly thing to do on her part. She did it because she was "told to do it"? Come on, have some common sense...

      August 24, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • mdmann

      How do you know this woman never claimed to be an artist?

      What do you mean "where were the elitist snobs who run these Historical and Art the midst of all the 'fixing up'?" Are these people supposed to be camped out at each and every historical work around the world making sure that nobody does something stupid like this?

      You aren't thinking very clearly, sir. This woman had n business doing this, She should have known that she was not qualified to do work of this nature. Just because some priest told her to "fix it up" doesn't mean she is not primarily to blame. She may have completely misinterpreted what she was told. She may even be lying for all we know.

      August 24, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Guest

    I shouldn't laugh, but... LOL! I'm showing this article to everyone because it gave me a good chuckle.

    August 24, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. rebeccarose

    Now see, this is one of the million reasons why old people should not be trusted

    August 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kona

    OMG!! This is hilarious!!! It looks like she used finger painting to do this! You can almost make out the Virgin Mary in the re-work!

    August 24, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joe Isaac


    August 24, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. mikem

    Why is this news?

    August 24, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • mdmann

      Ummm....maybe because a piece of artwork was destroyed by someone's stupidity.

      Do try to keep up! Sheeesh!

      August 24, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Joe Isaac

    This is a good needed laugh amid the tense, acrimonious campaign season. Thanks, parishioner!

    August 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Fanfan

    I don't think it's the same painting because the top roll of the image didn't need retouch and it's not the same!
    I say it's a way to get more people in the church....

    August 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael Jackson

      "I don't think it's the same painting " It is painted ON THE WALL. That's what 'fresco' means here. She frickin painted over it. Unbelievable.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. YBP

    There's no historical proof of a real-life Jesus. Paul's writings were first. He imagined a vision of Jesus. His sole semi-biographical revelation of Jesus was the tale of the Last Supper, which is not biographical, but a liturgical tradition of consuming divine flesh and blood which was already in use in Greco-Roman culture. The gospels were written after 70 CE by non-eyewitnesses. They are midrashic fiction with numerous literary sources. The names Jesus and Judas have allegorical meanings. Josephus' brief passage was inserted centuries later, and Tacitus wrote hearsay. There's no firsthand historical evidence.

    August 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • luxom3

      Really man, no first-hand account? So no Matthew, John, or Peter right?
      And the Roman government and Nero was just killing people and burning them over no one in particular, as their inspiration didn't exist?

      Come on dude. If you don't believe in Jesus as the Son of God, at least get with the other Atheists who can intellectually acknowledge his place in history as a factual figure.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigreenize

      Seriously? This is what you took away from this story?

      August 24, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Judas Priest

      That's odd, I could have sworn this article was about a painting.

      August 24, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • mdmann

      Your comment has no relevance to this story! I'm not disagreeing with what you are saying, but who cares in regards to this story? Why does it matter? The point is that a piece of artwork was just mangled by someone's stupidity. Why does it matter if Jesus was or was not an actual historical figure?

      Are you saying that if someone went into the Louvre and decided to permanently attach octopus arms to the "Venus de Milo," it would be OK since Aphrodite never existed?

      Please get your head out of your rear end!

      August 24, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack Pear.

      Whether or not you beleive in the Biblical account of His life, to say there never was such a person a Jesus is ludicrous. That's like saying that there never was a Constintine or a Ghengis Khan. And you do realize that 70AD is less than forty years after his death? That's still well within the lifespan of eyewitnesses and other contemporaries.

      September 3, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. RJ

    Holy crap that Mr. Bean piece was funny.... I bet that priest was the same way after he saw that. Maybe the old lady should of used a bigger box of crayons in her attempt instead of the small box....

    August 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lanfear

      looks to me as though she used pastels...

      August 24, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hogan's Goat

      I bet she used house paint.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Judas Priest

      From the look of it, it's acrylic. Hopefully not, since the original was done in oil. If she at least had the sense to use oils, this may be somewhat restorable. If she used acrylic on top of oil, it's a total loss.

      August 24, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
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