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. Not Pablo Picasso

    What a lovely painting!

    August 25, 2012 at 3:13 am | Report abuse |
  2. Life is for the YOUTH

    Well, as Jim Carrey said in "Dumb and Dumber": "Old people, though slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose."

    Maybe he should have included "though slow and dangerous BEHIND THE EASEL..."

    August 25, 2012 at 4:03 am | Report abuse |
  3. LMNOP

    "Mr. Bean" style.....awesome!!!!!

    August 25, 2012 at 5:08 am | Report abuse |
  4. PDQ


    August 25, 2012 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jeff

    What an indescribably horrible tragedy. Of all the paintings or frescoes I've seen, none compares to the majesty and emotion of this work!
    The destructive "restoration" done to this masterpiece is a mockery of everything Christians believe in. It's almost as though the ghost of pablo picasso came back to render this disgusting abstraction as a joke. Only a thoughtless, incompetent and unappreciative person would have attemped this and a more incompetent clergy allowed this.

    August 25, 2012 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Hope

      I agree, but this was a rendition of the Christ in the flesh. Canvas and oil cannot capture what was in his heart. It's not his looks that Christians love. It's his teachings, his actions, his promises. Besides, we'd love him, no matter what he looks like. Beauty is skin deep.

      Love, with all my heart,

      August 25, 2012 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
    • A little perspective perhaps?

      This is not a horrible tragedy....doesn't even come close. No one died, no one was even remotely injured or suffered through any horrible experiences at the hands of another human being. A mistake?..perhaps..but not a tragedy. And if you as a so called Christian take offense to this then your not much of a christian.The woman did not do this with any malice or ill will towards the church no was she trying to make any sort of statement in that regard.She was in fact a member of that church and was trying to help out after she had been asked too. If anyone should be held responsible here for this it should be that priest. What made them think she was qualified to restore a work of art like that? Ten to one they did not know what the painting actually was worth or who the artist was and were trying to save money.

      August 25, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Rebeca

      @a little perspective perhaps? > You are absolutely right, this elderly woman did this with her best intentions. She is a parishioner and seeing the state of the painting she didn't want it to deteriorate any further. However, what started out as a "little retouching" which she shouldn't have done to begin with "got out of hand" in her own words. All this she stated when she turned herself in. The Catholic Church doesn't actually own the building, it's legally part of the local historic patrimony and the local authorities are the ones responsible. The priest denies having requested this -and he had no authority to do so. He stated he was aware of Cecilia painting as a hobby, though. How this woman got it in her head that she had to do something about it and, more importantly, that she could actually pull off an actual restoration is beyond comprehension. I guess she had great confidence in her ability. Although the town is sympathetic, it is more than likely she will face the consequences. Authorities can't let this go, it would establish a dangerous precedent.

      August 25, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • JustMe

      So much for "you shall not adore idols". Great xtian you are. You are so horrified over a painting, a painting that a little old lady was simply trying to help. She feels bad enough as it is, no need to put her down even further. The church owners are the ones that are at fault, asking a non-professional to help with the painting just to save a few bucks to spend on legal fees instead. God forbid they stop molesting little children.

      August 25, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. MortimersWindow

    Its an improvement!!!

    August 25, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Piapeanut

    She should be jailed??? Oi have you heard of forgiveness and charity? please get over it, she was asked to restore it, she's clearly not talented in that way.

    August 25, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rebeca

      She won't be jailed. As a Spaniard, I can tell you an 80 year old won't be sent to prison because of this, especially considering that, as bad as it looks, her intent was not vandalism and she turned herself in. It's more than likely she will face other sort of consequences, though. Spain is full of ancient works of art, you will find them even in the smallest of towns, and they're always protected, mainly by local authorities who in turn respond to a central government agency. If they let it go, they'd be sending a message that it's ok to just go ahead and do something like this. I really feel for her, she's currently in bed after having to receive medical attention due to an anxiety attack, she never expected all this to happen. And as hilarious as this is (the unbelievable result has made me cry with laughter) there should be some consequences, even if symbolic.

      August 25, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pleasure

      Rebeca, at 120 years old, this work can hardly be termed "Ancient". Do feel for the poor little lady, though.

      August 25, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rebeca

      Indeed. When I say ancient I actually mean centuries old, and there are plenty of those. This painting in particular is really new compared to what you can easily find in many churches. Also it is said to have had more of a sentimental value than an artistic one. The artist did it as a gift to the church and the parish. Still, regardless of its monetary value, it should have been left alone. What concerns me is this could have easily happened to something else.

      August 25, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pleasure

      Agreed. It's a pity that an intervention didn't happen sooner...

      August 25, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. thoroughlybaked


    August 25, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mike R

    We can look at the positive aspects of this 'restoration'. Jesus looks younger and shaved. Instead of a crown of thorns, Jesus is sporting an afro (or a furry helmet of some sort). He's looking right at you instead of heaven. Even though he looks like he is having an allergic reaction to a bee sting on the bottom lip, overall, I think there is some kind of art to this metamorphosis of a man.

    August 25, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Nora

    C'mon, who ever heard of Borja before???? If this "masterpiece" ends up in the museum millions would go to see it.

    August 25, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ENIGMA

    Yals probably don't know but Jesus got a wicked sense of humor. He's probably ROTFFLHFAO.

    August 25, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hope


      Strange to have Jesus and that word in
      the same sentence... He's your creator.
      He could have stopped his captors, but
      he felt obligated to free us from sickness,
      sin and death. He's here and there, every-
      where... ruling in the midst of his enemies.
      Some worship him, but have not come to
      know him... and vise-versa... without spirit
      and truth. Draw close to him, and, he will
      draw close to you!

      Your will be done,

      August 25, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Anonymous

    The Catholic Church in Spain has spoken out on her behalf saying it's not the first time they come across the doings of "well-intentioned" churchgoers (although nothing like this) and that many an old lady would have to be prosecuted if charges are brought against her. Cecilia will most likely receive a slap on the wrist, she's more than learned her lesson (and luckily for her the painting wasn't actually worth that much money), but hopefully all this frenzy will send a message loud and clear to some: Ladies (as they're usually women) it's one thing to embroider something for your local church, it's another thing entirely to try your luck on the altar piece or that image of the Virgin Mary. Please leave that to the experts.

    August 25, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • @Hope Mary

      Sinner? Wicked? You must be looking in the mirror.

      August 25, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hope

      I, freely, admit my shortcomings. We all have them. Hard part is leaving it at the door and leaving it to Him to make your way... to be moved by His holy spirit.

      Turn, Turn,
      Hope, not Mary


      August 26, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ENIGMA

    Dear "Hope" Seems hopelesses consumed you since you dont believe Jesus has a sense of humor. His Father, my Creator and his Son Jesus did. And wicked (as mankind would refer to as coolness) he is. Have you seen the elephant man ? So chillack dear, your life is not as bad as you feel. Everything is beautiful and whole in HIS eyes even a hopeless soul like yours. Those condem an old woman are marked with envy and hatred because God did not bless them with skills to paint. Betcha couldn't accept if GOD and his SON prolly humored by an old woman did you ?

    August 26, 2012 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Hope

      Have you ever heard about how churches, proclaiming to be Christians, are like lost sheep being led to their destruction... living in darkness, blind to truth and having no holy spirit... ?

      This, you, are a fine example of that.


      August 26, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. GabrielaTM25

    The Jesus Christ’s image was modified to look like Misses Vandana Shiva from India, Asia.

    August 26, 2012 at 6:30 am | Report abuse |
  15. Just a Thought

    Well, had this happened in my hometown -our churches don't have paintings on the walls but they do have figures carved in stone dating back to the XII century- she would have probably applied cement to the Apostles so that they wouldn't look so "eroded".

    August 26, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
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