Worst. Restoration. Ever. Elderly Woman Botches Touch-Up Job on 19th Century Church Fresco

She won’t be the next Rembrandt. Picasso, maybe.

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CENTRO DE ESTUDIOS BORJANOS / AFP / Getty Images

The original version of the fresco "Ecce Homo" by 19th century painter Elias Garcia Martinez, left, the deteriorated version, middle, and the version restored by an elderly woman in Spain

At what point is a religious painting so botched that it could actually be considered blasphemous? Because the work done on this 200-year-old Spanish fresco titled “Ecce Homo” certainly fits the bill. Once an austere depiction of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns, the Spanish church painting now resembles a hairy monkey wearing a baggy velvet suit and sporting what seems to be a rolled-up carpet for an arm.

Surely 19th-century Spanish artist and lauded art professor Elias Garcia Martinez didn’t create such a flat, featureless alien to adorn a wall in a church in Borja, Spain. And surely it can’t be blamed on years of wear and tear. Yet on Aug. 7, when art officials visited the church of Santuario de la Misericordia in the small town of Borja northeastern Spain, they were stunned by Jesus’s unlikely transformation.

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The touchup, they concluded, was done by a church neighbor who was displeased with the way the “Ecce Homo” fresco had aged. Years of exposure to heat and dust had left whole sections washed away, as the middle image above shows. Art restoration is a touchy, time-consuming process, and Cecilia Gimenez, an octogenarian neighbor of the church, evidently thought she could do better. So, “without asking anyone’s permission,” but having the best of intentions, she tried her hand. She ultimately turned herself in, according to local culture councilor Juan María de Ojeda who spoke to Spain’s El Pais newspaper. She admitted to town administrators that her self-restoration would probably not be too well-received. Even the note she left to accompany her free labor alluded to her rush job: “This is the result of two hours of work,” it read, according to El Pais.

The painting, by 19th-century Spanish artist and noted art professor Elias Garcia Martinez, was never considered priceless — it’s fine work but not a masterpiece, and on the small size for a fresco, measuring only about 20 by 16 inches.  But it’s taken on international significance thanks to Gimenez’s amateurish restoration. While much of the world is stunned that a retiree would take her own paintbrush to a 200-year-old work of religious art, Gimenez claims that it was hardly a secret. “The priest knew it, the priest knew it. How could I do it without anyone telling me?” she told a local TV station. “Besides, everyone who entered the church saw me painting.”

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Esperanza Gimenez says her sister Cecilia’s intervention happened over the course of four years. Which might explain the middle image above, taken in July, where much of Jesus’ tunic had been rubbed away. But it was only recently that she put on the final touches. Restorers — presumably professional, well-paid ones — have been called in to try to bring the painting back to its original state. Though there is a contingency plan if the restoration is unsuccessful. As councilor Ojeda told the BBC, “If we can’t fix it, we will probably cover the wall with a photo of the painting.”

MORE: Art Theft Finally Reported, 12 Years After Painting Went Missing

22 comments
Sandra Green
Sandra Green

This painting looked 100%++++ better it's UN-restored state....

KB_Corkless
KB_Corkless

Good lord, she turned Jesus into Rum Tum Tugger from 'Cats'. That's some act of reverse transubstantiation.

u
u

now it only need a rich f' to buy it!

George286
George286

Such a horrifying loss that it's funny, it looks like a cartoon. Might as well laugh it off though, it wasn't malicious and what's done is done.

justme2001
justme2001

She is obviously  a Picasso fan. 

ULURU
ULURU

Wow! Now they have what looks like a Picasso! If Picasso's name was on it, it would be worth millions!

Marissa Trunfio
Marissa Trunfio

The work itself is so terrible that it's hilarious but what's really irritating to me is that she destroyed a piece of history by a brilliant artist in a beautiful, deeply historical center of artistic creativity and religiosity. I am not religious myself, but the tarnishing of honorable, valuable historical work and wonderful artistic contribution is disgraceful.

Brad Holman
Brad Holman

senile old ladies do the darndest things....

Optimus_past_my_Prime
Optimus_past_my_Prime

This should finally serve as proof that good intentions aren't worth a pound of crap. 

CynicalSidney2
CynicalSidney2

holy baby jesus she really butchered that painting, that thing looks like 'curious george' meets 'scream' i don't think it could get any worse than that.

actually i misspoke: if that had been an image of muhammed or allah, it could be worse  

Betsy Craig
Betsy Craig

No...this can not be real.  Keep the paint and brushes away from that old lady for God's sake!

Mario Chávez
Mario Chávez

For some reason, this reminds me of that Spongebob episode where he and Patrick are asked by Mr. Crabs to paint his house. They ended up ruining Mr. Crabs' precious first one-dollar bill. Hilarious!

happydayfortennis
happydayfortennis

Though I don't agree with religion, it has undoubtedly produced some of the most beautiful works of art. As an atheist, even I feel this is pretty insulting and borderline sacrilegious.

Mario Chávez
Mario Chávez

Rather than insulting or sacrilegious, as a fellow atheist, this well-intentioned woman just did a horrible job at restoring an old fresco. She must be feeling wretchedly guilty, poor ole lady.

JasperHelle
JasperHelle

 No, she's not feeling guilty at all. Instead she's throwing a fit saying she didn't have enough time to fix it so she's blaming it on them for stopping her.

Doreen Maguire
Doreen Maguire

Didn't anyone check out her previous work before they let her near the painting?

I think this old gal would make a better plumber than an "artist" ...going by THAT restoration....

Nina_W
Nina_W

Did you read the article? It says that the old lady didn't ask for permission.