Oh No She Didn’t: Reactions to the Ecce Homo Crisis

Sara Torgeson
Staff Writer

In light of Barcelona’s Ecce Homo crisis I am unsure if I want to cry over the defacement of the beautiful Jesus themed fresco, that art conservationist may or may not be able to restore to its previous derogated state, or laugh at pseudo-restoration expert, Cecilia Giménez take on the century old masterpiece.

Image of the pseudo-restoration before and after. [Photo: Google Images].

On August 23rd, The New York Times  published an article about the defacement of a 19th Century Jesus Crowned with Thorns-themed fresco, called the Ecce Homo in the Santuario de la Misericordia Cathedral near Madrid Spain. Authorities originally thought the wall had been vandalized until, Cecilia Giménez, a woman in her 80s, admitted to trying to restore the painting. Giménez, a parishioner of the church, went on national television to account for the damage she had done and take responsibility for any legal action that may be pursued.

Since the article, I have heard various comments about the new appearance of Ecce Homo. Most remarks seem overlook the loss of a work of art and focus on the hilariousness of the whole situation.

Not only did Giménez allegedly ask the local clergy if she could attempt to restore the painting, but she worked during broad daylight. Her working during the day brings up a huge question: Who was watching her? How can a lone woman painting on the walls of the Santuario de la Misericordia, especially in Spain, which is the Mecca of stunning religious architecture and art, go unnoticed until Jesus started to look like something from a five-year-old’s interpretation of Dante? At the very least, she must have disrupted mass.

Maybe, Giménez’s hand was guided by the Spirit and she did not realize that the first stroke of her brush was by far the biggest mistake of her life. Maybe she has an artist’s ego and thinks her rendition of Elías García Martínez’s Jesus is an improvement? Maybe she realized that she had done something awful with the initial swipe of her brush and the ensuing marks were intended to fix the mess she had created?

Whatever be the case, Giménez was clearly disillusioned in her attempt to perform a DIY conservation and has destroyed a beautiful piece of art.

It was her favorite local artistic representation of Jesus and the dilapidated state of the fresco moved her to fix it. Ultimately, Giménez’s actions should be a message to governments everywhere encouraging them to fork out the money to keep their artistic history alive and properly restored.

In my opinion I think the whole situation is sad. Now the Spanish government has to invest in fixing the Ecce Homo (or not because of their current economic state), and an old woman who was only trying to help has become an artistic and social pariah, because she just failed so miserably.

On the bright side, it looks hysterical and it might actually get the conservation attention that it needed in the first place.



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