Ecce Homo (Martínez and Giménez, Borja)

For other uses of Ecce Homo, see Ecce Homo (disambiguation).
Ecce Homo

Ecce Homo before the restoration attempt.
Artist Elías García Martínez
Type Fresco
Dimensions 50 cm × 40 cm (20 in × 16 in)
Location Sanctuary of Mercy church, Borja
Owner Diocese of Tarazona

The Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) in the Sanctuary of Mercy church in Borja, Spain, is a fresco painted circa 1930 by the Spanish painter Elías García Martínez depicting Jesus crowned with thorns. Both the subject and style are typical of traditional Catholic art.[1] While press accounts agree that the original painting was artistically unremarkable,[2][3][4] its fame derives from an attempt to restore the fresco by Cecilia Giménez, an untrained elderly amateur, in 2012.[5][6]

The original mural

The artist, a professor at the School of Art of Zaragoza, gave the painting to the village where he used to spend his holidays, painting it directly on the wall of the church about 1930.[7][8] He commented that "this is the result of two hours of devotion to the Virgin of Mercy".[9] His descendants still reside in Zaragoza and were aware that the painting had deteriorated seriously; his grand-daughter had made a donation toward its restoration shortly before they discovered that the work had been radically altered in an incomplete attempt to restore it.[1][10]

Failed restoration attempt and Internet phenomenon

External image
Three versions of Ecce Homo: left, the original version; center, the deteriorated fresco; right, the attempted restoration by Cecilia Giménez[10]

The authorities in Borja said they had suspected vandalism at first, but then determined that the alterations had been made by an elderly parishioner, Doña Cecilia Giménez, who was in her 80s. She said on Spanish national television that she had started to restore the fresco, because she was upset that parts of it had flaked off due to moisture on the church's walls. Giménez defended herself, saying she could not understand the uproar because she had worked in broad daylight and had tried to salvage the fresco with the approval of the local clergyman. "The priest knew it," she told Spanish television. "I've never tried to do anything hidden."[10]

News of the disfigured painting spread around the globe in August 2012 on mainstream and social media, which promptly led to the status of an internet phenomenon. BBC Europe correspondent Christian Fraser said that the result resembled a "crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic".[5] The restored version has been jokingly dubbed "Ecce Mono" ('Behold the Monkey,' ecce is Latin, whereas mono is Spanish for 'monkey'; in Latin, it is simius) in an "online rush of global hilarity",[11][12][13] and compared to the plot of the film Bean.[14] Because of the negative attention, the priest of the church, Father Florencio Garces, thought the painting should be covered up.[15]

Artistic significance

Tongue-in-cheek critiques have interpreted the piece as a multifaceted comment on both sacred and secular themes. A Forbes commentator suggested that the "inept restoration" represented "one woman's vision of her savior, uncompromised by schooling."[16][17] In September 2012 the artistic group Wallpeople presented hundreds of reworked versions of the new image on a wall near the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona. An organizer commented that "Cecilia has created a pop icon".[18]

Tourist success

The interest from tourists was such that the church began charging to see the fresco.[19] In the year following the failed restoration, tourist activity generated 40,000 visits and more than €50,000 for a local charity.[20][21] Giménez has sought a share of the royalties. Giménez's lawyer said that she wanted her share of the profits to help muscular dystrophy charities, because her son suffers from the condition.[22][23] By 2016, tourist numbers to the town had increased from 6,000 to 57,000; in addition to spending money with local businesses, visitors have donated some €50,000 to the church. The money has been used to employ additional attendants at the church and to fund an old people's home.[24] On 16 March 2016, an interpretation centre dedicated to the artwork was opened in Borja.[25]

See also


  1. 1 2 "Un hecho incalificable" (in Spanish). Noticias y actividades. Centro de Estudios Borjanos (Institución Fernando El Católico). 7 August 2012.
  2. Rocío Huerta (22 August 2012). "La restauración de un 'Ecce homo' se convierte en un sainete mundial". El País (in Spanish). Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  3. John Hall (22 August 2012). "Elderly woman destroys 19th-century Spanish fresco by Elias Garcia Martinez in botched restoration". The Independent. London. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  4. Jonathan Jones (23 August 2012). "Great art needs a few restoration disasters". Retrieved 1 September 2012. Martinez is not a great artist and his painting Ecce Homo is not a 'masterpiece'. It is a minor painting in the dregs of an academic tradition.
  5. 1 2 "Spanish fresco restoration botched by amateur". BBC. 23 August 2012. Retrieved 23 August 2012.
  6. "Amateur art restorer ruins fresco of Christ in Spanish town". The Celebrity Cafe. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
  7. "Disfigured Spanish Fresco Is Hit for Artist, Town". Associated Press. 13 August 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  8. Albarium Conservación y Restauración. Informe sobre el Ecce Homo de la iglesia del Santuario de la Misericordia de Borja (Zaragoza). September 2012. Archived 26 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. Huerta, Rocío (22 August 2012). "Restauradores profesionales tratarán de recuperar el eccehomo". El País (in Spanish). Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  10. 1 2 3 Minder, Raphael (24 August 2012). "Despite Good Intentions, a Fresco in Spain Is Ruined". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  11. "'Ecce mono'". Editorial. Financial Times. 24 August 2012.
  12. Victoria Cavaliere (27 August 2012). "Elderly woman destroys 19th century fresco in do-it-herself restoration attempt". New York Daily News. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
  13. "De Ecce Homo...". El Heraldo. 23 August 2012. Malestar e hilaridad general por destrozo que anciana 'restauradora' ocasionó a pintura.
  14. "Church masterpiece 'restored' as Mr. Bean would do it". 23 August 2012. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  15. David Randall; Megan Tatum. "Botched art is an online sensation". London, England: The Independent on Sunday (via HighBeam Research). Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  16. Alexander Forbes (23 August 2012). "Spanish Octogenarian's Disastrous Unauthorized Art Restoration Yields Surprisingly Avant-Garde Results". Artinfo. Retrieved 1 September 2012. [...] the updated monkey-like Christ has a freakish new power all its own, and may be its own kind of metaphor for modern man.
  17. Jonathon Keats (27 September 2012). "Why Every Church Should Be Blessed With A Muralist As Uncouth As Cecilia Gimenez". Forbes. Retrieved 29 September 2012. Works such as the Giménez Jesus are as vital for believers – and as insightful for the rest of us – as traditional masterpieces, albeit for different reasons... We gain access to one woman's vision of her savior, uncompromised by schooling. Her painting documents a live relationship. For some, that will be alluring, inviting them likewise to pursue their connection with their god or messiah. To any of us willing to set aside our sneering irony, it provides rare raw access to human faith at work.
  18. Anthony Coyle, Barcelona (7 September 2012). "Ya está aquí: el 'eccehomenaje'" (in Spanish). Cultura. El País. "Una acción en la que cientos de personas han diseñado su particular fotomontaje del eccehomo [sic] de Borja, asignándole tan particular rostro a todo tipo de iconos del imaginario popular; desde celebridades a obras del Renacimiento o pósters de cine. Wallpeople ha recibido más de un centenar de dibujos de todo el mundo desde que anunció la convocatoria hace dos semanas. Uno de sus responsables, Pablo Quijano, explica que la idea es 'fomentar el arte y la creatividad' y 'apoyar a Cecilia Giménez', quién incluso ha padecido ataques de ansiedad desde el suceso. 'Cuando vimos la repercusión de este fenómeno pensamos que teníamos que hacer algo. Cecilia ha creado un icono pop', comenta el joven de 30 años [...]"
  19. Brooks, Katherine (20 September 2012). "'Ecce Homo' Restorationist Cecilia Gimenez Allegedly Demands Royalties for 'Beast Jesus' Creation in Spain". Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  20. Associated Press in Madrid. "Ecce dinero: Spain turns ruined Christ fresco into money-spinner | Art and design". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  21. Detenido Florencio Garcés, el cura de Borja: abusos sexuales y robo de 210.000 euros. En la Iglesia de esta localidad zaragozana se encuentra el famoso 'Eccehomo' restaurado por Cecilia Giménez. 30 November 2013. accessed 30 Nov 2013.
  22. "Disfigured Spain fresco rides global fame. Alan Clendenning". Associated Press. Madrid. 21 September 2012.
  23. Barry Neild (20 September 2012). "Ecce Homo 'restorer' wants a slice of the royalties". London. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  24. Botched restoration has visitors flooding to sleepy Spanish village. Euro Weekly News, Spain. 17 March 2016. accessed 1 April 2016
  25. El eccehomo de Borja ya tiene quien lo explique. Se inaugura el Centro de Interpretación centrado en la pintura retocada en 2012 por la restauradora aficionada Cecilia Giménez. Aitor Bengoa. El Pais 16 MAR 2016. accessed 5 April 2016
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Coordinates: 41°51′16.83″N 1°34′31.52″W / 41.8546750°N 1.5754222°W / 41.8546750; -1.5754222

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