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. beatenmale

    Masterpiece, I say.

    August 24, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Brownwich

    She has done a nice job on the scroll and apparently she would like to finish the face. Why not let her try? If she does as nice a job on the face as she did on the scroll it may turn out very nicely. Yes, unfortunately much of the image came off (if it was still there) when she removed the areas that were subject to deterioration. You could likewise mock a construction worker who has just removed all of the termite-damaged area of a home.

    August 24, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duke

      she basically destroyed a piece of art. She should not be allowed within 1000 feet of any artwork. only a fool would suggest she be given another chance to totally muck stuff up.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • les

      "a nice job on the scroll"? Are you serious? You really need to get some glasses, that isn't a scroll, it's piece of California redwood. How come the eyes, are now looking towards the viewer? What's with the mouth? This was done on purpose.

      August 24, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. dinotroll

    this is modern art

    August 24, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • praxit

      lol.....yup, right on..

      August 24, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • orlfla

      Only a fool would consider this something to laugh about.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dude






      And I would like to add:

      I realize that what might be the most accurate depiction of a famous dark skinned African man may have been lost. But, it is still funny. Not just the painting but the fact that the priests, the representatives of our creator's presence on earth, when they wanted to preserve the image of that creator's son, asked an amateur, who made no claims of ability, to do the job. Then did nothing to stop their mistake when it was played out in public.

      Oh, did I mention?


      August 24, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jonesy

    This is just the primer and first coat... one more coat and it will be a masterpiece again.

    August 24, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hope


      Oh, I got it... She's starting from SCRATCH!

      August 24, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. FLAmandaG

    Looks like Andre the Giant now, doesn't it?

    August 24, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jax Wolff

    Oh well, you can paint a factious character any way you want

    August 24, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rrp

    Well...goes to show how easy it is to alter the story over a 2000 year period...all of sudden it was true.(wink)

    August 24, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. praxit

    Wow, I surely see some likeness here. Not even Sorolla or Sargent could come close to this rendition.

    August 24, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Duke

    I would not trust this woman to repaint my living room in a solid color.

    August 24, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Art Critic

    Looks good enough to me. The mouth might need a little more work, but other than that, it looks better than the original. The church should be happy that this fine restoration was done for free.

    August 24, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hope

      In art, you get your money's worth...
      but, what was she THINKING???!

      August 24, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • andrew

      you must be blind. your comment is as lovely as that restored painting

      August 24, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tim

    I don't know what the big deal is. When one is painting a fictitious character it is open to one's interpretation.

    August 24, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Lynn Farquhar

    I kind of like it.

    August 24, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. S-Hug

    She replaced Jesus Christ with the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith.

    August 24, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hope


      Your eyes are about as good as mine!


      August 24, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Josh

    It kind of resembles the birds nest lady gaga worn to MTV awards a while back...

    August 24, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. The art restorer

    Compared to Mr Bean, she is a master restorer. Too bad there is no video.

    August 24, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
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