Well-meaning elderly woman ruins priceless fresco in restoration attempt

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Pictures provided by the Center for Borja Studies show the original version of the painting Ecce Homo, by 19th-century painter Elias Garcia Martinez, from left, the deteriorated version the center recently documented, and the version "restored" by a parishioner.

Pictures provided by the Center for Borja Studies show the original version of the painting Ecce Homo, by 19th-century painter Elias Garcia Martinez, from left, the deteriorated version the center recently documented, and the version "restored" by a parishioner.

Pictures provided by the Center for Borja Studies show the original version of the painting Ecce Homo, by 19th-century painter Elias Garcia Martinez, from left, the deteriorated version the center recently documented, and the version "restored" by a parishioner.

Pictures provided by the Center for Borja Studies show the original version of the painting Ecce Homo, by 19th-century painter Elias Garcia Martinez, from left, the deteriorated version the center recently documented, and the version “restored” by a parishioner.

The efforts of an elderly parishioner to restore a 120-year-old fresco on a column inside a Spanish church has many art enthusiasts up in arms.

The fresco, titled Ecce Homo (Behold the Man), is a depiction of Jesus Christ with a crown of thorns. It was painted on a wall of the Sanctuary of Mercy at Borja, near Zaragoza, Spain, by artist Elias Garcia Martinez more than a century ago. Over that century, the fresco has undergone a substantial amount of water damage.

Its troubling “restoration” occurred after the local Center for Borja Studies received the donation of a canvas done by Garcia from one his granddaughters who lives nearby, according to the center’s blog.

Center staff noted that the only other known work by Garcia in the area was Ecce Homo, went to the church to photograph the fresco, and realized it was in bad shape.

Parishioner Cecilia Giménez said she was asked by the church to fix things up.

“The priest was aware … he knew,” she is quoted as saying in a report on Euronews.com. “Of course I did it because I was told to do it.”

In its blog, the center expresses “astonishment” that “an intervention was done” on the painting.

“As unbelievable as it sounds, this is what remains of the work of an artist whose relatives still live in our city,” the blog reads.

Giménez said her work was done in the open and nobody tried to stop her, according to Euronews.

“Everybody that came into the church saw me. I never tried to hide,” she is quoted as saying.

“Clearly, she has destroyed the painting,” Garcia’s granddaughter, Teresa Garcia, is quoted as saying.

The center says it doesn’t know if the “restoration” can be fixed.

“We don’t know if this indescribable act has a solution, but there is no doubt that someone should adopt strict measures so that there is not a repetition of acts like this, which despite its intentions, should be strongly condemned,” its blog says.