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Botched art restoration in Spain earns worldwide fans

August 28, 2012|By Chris Barton
  • These photos show the 20th century fresco of Christ before and after an elderly Celia Gimenez undertook her restoration.
These photos show the 20th century fresco of Christ before and after an elderly… ( Centro de estudios Borjanos )

A well-intended but ultimately very underqualified octogenarian woman in Borja, Spain, has become something of an international art celebrity as her attempt to restore Elias Garcia Martinez's "Ecce Homo"-styled fresco transformed a more than century-old depiction of Christ into something else entirely.

Many have decided Cecilia Gimenez's new look has given the painting a vaguely simian cast, while others have gotten more specific in noting the painting's uncanny resemblance to the monkey-like '80s toy Monchhichi.

An inevitable satirical Twitter handle, @FrescoJesus, is more all over the map in deciding upon a resemblance, describing itself as a hedgehog in one instance and referencing its "action figure face" in another. Look at it long enough, and it's likely your own idea of a resemblance will appear, which may explain why it has become a viral hit.

An ironic online fanclub called the Beast-Jesus Restoration Society has given life to a Tumblr page featuring a collection of Photoshop tributes placing the fresco's fuzzy head onto a variety of masterworks including Michaelangelo's "Creation of Adam," and a Change.org petition started in Madrid has received more than 20,000 signatures in an effort to preserve Gimenez's version against any recovery effort, claiming that her "daring" work is "a clever reflection of political and social situation of our time."

In a story last week, a writer for Artinfo seemed to be serious in referring to the work as "a masterpiece of contemporary surrealism" and perhaps "its own kind of metaphor for modern man." The art critic for the Guardian even smirkingly suggested that Gimenez be turned loose on "a couple works that actually matter" in an effort to get more people talking about art on such a global scale.

An artist herself, Gimenez has insisted she was acting with the permission of the town's priest, and reportedly is suffering now from anxiety attacks since her work became known. Though the original painting is not estimated to be of high value, local officials have pledged to bring the work back to its original condition or cover it with a photograph should the damage be too great.

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Twitter: @chrisbarton

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