An elderly woman has turned a XIX century fresco masterpiece into a complete disaster by restoring it freestyle, without any knowledge or asking for permission to anyone. The botched job is located in a tiny church named Santuario de la Misericordia, in Borja (Zaragoza), a little town in Spain far from the regular tourist attractions but now claiming for a position thanks to the hilarious work of that 'self-untaught' octogenarian, named Cecilia Giménez.
The original Ecce Homo, painted by the artist Elías García Martínez more than a century ago, had white patches because of the time. A couple of weeks ago, the painter's granddaughter made a donation to the Centro de Estudios Borjanos (that keeps an updated photo database of the religious art in that region) and then the mess was discovered: that Jesus has had a facelift, and what a one...
The priest in charge of the church was supposed to know that she was repainting the fresco, according to what the woman said to TVE, the national Spanish television. "Everyone could see me painting there. I wasn't hiding," said in front of the camera the elderly, now in bed because of a nerve breakdown. The international media attention and mock has been overwhelming for her, who just wanted to make the church "look beautiful again."
Next week a group of real restorers (now the professional ones) will evaluate the damage and see if it is worth it to restore the piece. For the time being, the priest wants to cover the fresco to dissuade the crowds from visiting it just for laughs. Still, on Twitter and Facebook, people are making fun of Jesus' new face, selling merchandising about it and collecting signatures to push authorities to keep that Jesus forever as Cecilia repainted it, because it's funny and part of history.
Sometimes I feel this sort of things can just happen in my country, because as they used to promote it, 'Spain is different,' but not always for good. Now this poor Ecce Homo is also... different, and it will only fit good in São Francisco de Assis church, located at Salvador de Bahia (Brazil), where the angels are ugly, deformed, pregnant and grotesque.
While visiting it several years ago I was told the native artists made it on purpose, to rebel against the Catholic colonists, who obliged them to work for their religion. The difference is that moved by her devotion, faith and "a great taste for painting since she was a child," said her sister, Cecilia was working for years in destroying, with some sort of Picasso flavor, someone else's fresco. We can't deny, though, this has been the funniest week of the summer. Thanks Cecilia for letting us forget about recession, unemployment and austerity.
Follow Laura Sangrà on Twitter: www.twitter.com/laurasangra