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)

    " this disgusting abstraction as a joke. Only a thoughtless, incompetent and unappreciative person would have attemped this " AN EXAMPLE OF A PSEUDO CHRISTIAN.

    August 26, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • RkinsawJoe

      'thoughtless,incompetent,unappreciative,pseudo christian" That's a far more appropriate description for yourself,the church and it's parishioners than of the 81 year old lady who,while clearly misguided,was acting out of love and respect. Now humiliated,chastised and threatened with arrest and jail this poor woman is reportedly confined to bed suffering from anxiety attacks. What a wonderful display of christian love and charity towards an elderly parishioner now fully aware of the value in which she is held by the church to which she was so devoted. Nice.

      August 26, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hope



      Shallow believers.

      August 26, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • jaana

      what the hell is wrong with you? why would messing up a art restoration bring into question anyone's christianity? you're a complete idiot.

      August 28, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • drowlord

      Horrific incompetence. The kind that the Catholic church struggles desperately to breed and encourage. Justice served.

      August 28, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • DWE44

      Talk about thoughtless and incompetent. That poor woman was doing the best she could, and I feel terrible for her. To question her faith (I am an Atheist) but boy, you have a lot of nerve

      August 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • DWE44

      Talk about thoughtless and incompetent. That poor woman was doing the best she could, and I feel terrible for her. I am an Atheist, but to question her faith, boy, you have a lot of nerve.

      August 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joey Navis

    there is lots of restoration work that needs to be done. this fine lady may have found a new career late in her life. on to the sistine chapel.

    August 27, 2012 at 6:30 am | Report abuse |
  3. lamaba

    this is a good restoration it looks very historical

    August 27, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  4. Crownedprince

    Where are all those ancient alien theorists about now?
    Looking at the finished work, I'm sort of inclined to believe we came from another planet...

    August 27, 2012 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |

    Good job !

    August 27, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  6. Stand Your Ground

    JESUS CHRIST!! (see what I did there?)

    August 27, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |

    Well Joe. If you took some time to read properly you'd see that it's a quote from another poster verbally abusive. I was defending the elderly from the getgo. And once again Hope(less) didnt hesitate to ride on somebody's coattail.


    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 |


    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

    August 28, 2012 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
  8. Pamela T.

    If you ask me, the real problem lies with whomever is in charge of the church building. I want to know if they asked her to restore the painting. If yes, why? When people donate money to restore something, they want it restored by a *proffessional*, not a parishioner. If they didn't ask her to do it, then how did the fact that she was doing it escape their attention? Have they not visited their church in a while? Who was *supposed* to be watching over the building when it's doors are open (to make sure a real vandal, such as a drunk teen with a can of spray paint, doesn't mess up such works of art)? Whoever that was, why did they not notice an old lady painting on their wall? How do you miss that when you're responcible for a church building containing old and beloved pieces of art? That "I never told her to do it" excuse sounds very fishy to me...

    My best guess is that this was an attempt to "save money" by having a non-professional do the work others donated to have done right, or it was simply a miscommunication. Either way, I think we're railing on the wrong person. True, the painting was poorly "restored", but I'm not convinced, based on the information in this article, that the blame rests wholely or predominantly with the woman. There are just too many unanswered questions for me to make such an assumption.

    August 28, 2012 at 3:38 am | Report abuse |
  9. Freedom 101

    That what you get for cutting corners to save a buck!

    August 28, 2012 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |

    This is horrible! My 9 year old could have done a better job. It is supposed to be Jesus. It's not even a good picture a normal man. They should just paint the wall gray. This is a disgrace.

    August 28, 2012 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  11. word-smythe

    I kinda like it. Surrealistic, much more involving than the previous version...

    August 28, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  12. Moxie Man

    She did a great job...on the tunic.

    August 28, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  13. Nunya

    I'm thinking the church should have forked out a few bucks for a real restoration instead of buying the pastor a new Mercedes.

    August 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Todd

    Im sorry....this is HILLARIOUS!!! Did anyone ever stop to think that maybe the lady is just not a good artist??

    August 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Todd

    I think the new rendition is very nice.

    August 28, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • lweba

      The church should now open its doors to the tourists to see the restoration!

      August 29, 2012 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
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