80-Year-Old Woman ‘Restores’ 100-Year-Old Masterpiece

An old woman with no painting skills was allowed to restore an old painting. Oddly, it didn't turn out very well.

An old woman with no painting skills was allowed to restore an old painting. Oddly, it didn’t turn out very well.

BBCSpanish fresco restoration botched by amateur“)

An elderly parishioner has stunned Spanish cultural officials with an alarming and unauthorised attempt to restore a prized Jesus Christ fresco.
Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) by Elias Garcia Martinez has held pride of place in the Sanctuary of Mercy Church near Zaragoza for more than 100 years.

The woman took her brush to it after years of deterioration due to moisture.

Cultural officials said she had the best intentions and hoped it could be properly restored.


Cecilia Gimenez, who is in her 80s, was reportedly upset at the way the fresco had deteriorated and took it on herself to “restore” the image.

She claimed to have had the permission of the priest to carry out the job.

“(The) priest knew it! He did! How could you do something like that without permission? He knew it!”

BBC Europe correspondent Christian Fraser says the delicate brush strokes of Elias Garcia Martinez have been buried under a haphazard splattering of paint.

The once-dignified portrait now resembles a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic, he says.

Maybe that’s what she was going for? Oddly, they’d allowed this woman to touch up the tunic previously.

Not at all surprisingly, the Internet is having fun with this. HuffPo‘s Priscilla Frank (“‘Ironic Art Fans’ Petition To Save World’s Worst Resoration Of ‘Ecce Homo’“):

 The past couple of days the Internet has been all a frenzy over the hilarious and equally horrifying mutilation impromptu restoration of 19th century fresco by a bold 80-year-old woman. Cecilia Gimenez approached the Christ painting “Ecce Homo” by Elias Garcia Martinez and thought it could use a little sprucing up. Unfortunately her restoration got a little out of hand, turning the divine figure into what looks like an furry alien Neanderthal. As one HuffPost commenter put it, “It’s Ewok Jesus!” Well, it looks like the world has fallen in love with this particular version of Christ, as devotees have launched a petition attempting to halt the restoration of the restoration.

The tale the restoration fail immediately went viral, resulting in hoards of tweets, comments and even this hilarious “Beast Jesus Restoration Society” Tumblr. While many media outlets referred to the renegade act as “the worst restoration in history,” many people have come out to support art’s most unlikely vigilante, Ms. Gimenez, which was the subject of a recent BBC interview.

Jonathan Jones over at The Guardian hailed Gimenez for bringing a virtually invisible work into the pop culture purview, resuscitating it into Internet relevance.Jones even suggests, cheekily of course, “the well-meaning restorer of this obscure Spanish painting should be turned loose on a couple of works that actually matter. Many true masterpieces are starved of the global attention this second-rate Ecce Homo has now got.”

It seems like many people agree. Over 5,000 people, described as “ironic art fans” by the Associated Foreign Press, have signed a Change.org petition attempting to save furry Jesus. The petition states that Gimenez’s mistake-cum-masterpiece “reveals a subtle criticism of the Church’s creationist theories while questioning a resurgence of new idols.” While we doubt there was an avant-garde motive behind Gimenez’s aesthetic choices, we suppose it is possible, especially given her history as an “accomplished” artist.

There’s also probably a good “No homo” joke in there somewhere.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jeremy says:

    I think it’s kinda cool, actually. Sort of like modernist art or a Picasso-influenced portrait.

    I mean, obviously the loss of the original is regrettably, but the new is a good picture as well.

  2. CSK says:

    I don’t know…I’m getting a sort of Edvard Munch vibe from this thing.

  3. rudderpedals says:

    Perfect artwork for a Half Life no2 episode. Cecilia really nails the melting babushka look

  4. al-Ameda says:

    I can just imagine the conversations right now:

    Official #1: What were you thinking when you commissioned her to do the restoration?
    Official #2: What? I hired her to do a re-forestation.
    Official #3: Well then, who planted all those redwood trees in the Alhambra?

  5. Scoox says:

    That is hilarious

  6. Lawrence says:

    Poor soul….she was just following Vatican II art guidelines!

  7. Lawrence says:

    Those piercing new eyes move me…which direction, I don’t know. A mystery that we shall never fully understand.

  8. Mayu says:

    this is a joke right? not legit… please tell me this is not legit… someone tell me this is not legit, or tell me it’s the real deal AFTER I swallow this last sip of soda… cause that won’t be pretty.

  9. Missy says:

    This is HYLarious. I bet her hand was shaking the whole while she was doing this. Maybe if she had a little more practice it would have been so much better. LOL.

    Who is in charge of this circus of allowing this lady to destroy such a great masterpiece.?!

  10. Sue says:

    Absolutely a crime and utterly horrifying what happened to the original painting!

  11. JerryT says:

    “Oddly, it didn’t turn out very well.”

    So now everyone is an art critic…