Ecce Homo (Martínez and Giménez)

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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Ecce Homo
Elias Garcia Martinez - Ecce Homo.jpg
Ecce Homo before the restoration attempt
ArtistElías García Martínez
Dimensions50 cm × 40 cm (20 in × 16 in)
LocationSanctuary of Mercy church, Borja, Zaragoza, Spain
OwnerDiocese of Tarazona

The Ecce Homo (Latin: "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 current fame derives from a good faith attempt to restore the fresco by Cecilia Giménez, an untrained amateur artist, in 2012.[5][6] The intervention transformed the painting and made it look similar to a monkey, and for this reason it is sometimes referred to as Ecce Mono (roughly Behold the Monkey; mono translates to monkey in Spanish).

Original mural[edit]

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 in 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 live in Zaragoza and were aware that the painting had deteriorated seriously; his granddaughter had made a donation toward its restoration shortly before they discovered that the work had been radically altered in an incompetent attempt to restore it.[1][10]

Failed restoration attempt and internet phenomenon[edit]

Cecilia Giménez's 2012 attempted restoration of the fresco

The authorities in Borja said they had suspected vandalism at first, but then determined that the alterations had been made by an elderly parishioner, Cecilia Giménez, who was 81 years old at the time.[11] She said on Spanish national television that she 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]

Giménez said that the attempted restoration was actually an uncompleted work in progress. "I left it to dry and went on holiday for two weeks, thinking I would finish the restoration when I returned," she said. "When I came back, everybody in the world had heard about Ecce Homo. The way people reacted still hurts me, because I wasn’t finished with the restoration. I still think about how if I hadn’t gone on holiday, none of this would have ever happened."[12]

News of the painting spread around the globe in August 2012 (the silly season[13]) on mainstream and social media, which promptly rose 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 for 'behold', whereas mono is Spanish for 'monkey'; in Latin, it is simius) in an "online rush of global hilarity",[14][15][16] and the incident was compared to the plot of the 1997 film Bean.[17] Because of the negative attention, the priest of the church, Father Florencio Garces, thought the painting should be covered up.[18]

Giménez said in 2015 that "everyone here sees what I did in a different light. The restoration has put Borja on the world map, meaning I’ve done something for my village that nobody else was able to do. So many people have come here – and to our beautiful church – to see the painting ... they tell me more than 130,000 people."[12]

Artistic significance[edit]

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".[19][20] 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".[21]

Later on, Spanish actress Assumpta Serna co-produced with Wildcard UK a documentary called Fresco Fiasco and acted in the movie Behold the Monkey, two films about the restoration. Both projects were seen in February 2016 on the Sky Arts network in the UK.[22][23][24]

Tourist success[edit]

The interest from tourists was such that the church began charging to see the fresco.[25] In the year following the failed restoration, tourist activity generated 40,000 visits and more than €50,000 for a local charity.[26][27] Giménez has sought a share of the royalties; her lawyer said that she wanted her share of the profits to help muscular dystrophy charities because her son suffers from the condition.[28][29] The mayor had to mend the dispute between the families of both authors.[13] By 2016, the number of tourists visiting the town had increased from 6,000 to 57,000 or even 200,000;[22][23][24] 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 a home for retirees.[30][31] On 16 March 2016, an interpretation centre dedicated to the artwork was opened in Borja.[32] The €3 tickets generate over €40,000 that, among other expenses, pay €15,000 for two (some years even five) elderly people in the town home for retirees. Cecilia Giménez also keeps 50% of the merchandising profit.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "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". The Guardian. 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. ^ a b "Spanish fresco restoration botched by amateur". BBC News. 23 August 2012. Archived from the original on 20 November 2018. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  6. ^ "Amateur art restorer ruins fresco of Christ in Spanish town". The Celebrity Cafe. Archived from the original on 27 August 2012. 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. ^ a b Minder, Raphael (24 August 2012). "Despite Good Intentions, a Fresco in Spain Is Ruined". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  11. ^ McCarthy, A.J. (20 September 2012). "Cecilia Gimenez-Ecce Home: 81-year-old woman who restored Sanctuary of Mercy Church's fresco suing for royalties". Slate. Retrieved 21 March 2022.
  12. ^ a b Benedictus, Leo (7 January 2015). "Life after a viral nightmare: from Ecce Homo to revenge porn". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  13. ^ a b c Riaño, Peio H. (29 June 2022). "De fenómeno a fin social: diez años del milagro económico del 'Ecce Homo' de Borja". (in Spanish). Retrieved 30 June 2022.
  14. ^ "Ecce mono". Editorial. Financial Times. 24 August 2012. Archived from the original on 4 March 2023.
  15. ^ Victoria Cavaliere (27 August 2012). "Elderly woman destroys 19th century fresco in do-it-herself restoration attempt". Daily News. New York. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
  16. ^ "De Ecce Homo...". El Heraldo. 23 August 2012. Malestar e hilaridad general por destrozo que anciana 'restauradora' ocasionó a pintura.
  17. ^ "Church masterpiece 'restored' as Mr. Bean would do it". CNN. 23 August 2012. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  18. ^ David Randall; Megan Tatum. "Botched art is an online sensation". London, England: The Independent on Sunday (via HighBeam Research). Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  19. ^ Alexander Forbes (23 August 2012). "Spanish Octogenarian's Disastrous Unauthorized Art Restoration Yields Surprisingly Avant-Garde Results". Art+Auction. 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.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ 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 [...]"
  22. ^ a b "Estreno del Documental "Fresco fiasco"". YouTube. 7 July 2016. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  23. ^ a b "SKY Box Sets". 2016. Archived from the original on 28 July 2017. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  24. ^ a b "El Eccehomo de Borja salta a la televisión británica". ABC. Madrid. 17 June 2016. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  25. ^ Brooks, Katherine (20 September 2012). "'Ecce Homo' Restorationist Cecilia Gimenez Allegedly Demands Royalties for 'Beast Jesus' Creation in Spain". HuffPost. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  26. ^ "Ecce dinero: Spain turns ruined Christ fresco into money-spinner | Art and design". The Guardian. Associated Press in Madrid. 14 August 2013. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  27. ^ "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" [Florencio Garcés, the priest of Borja Arrested: sexual abuse and theft of 210,000 euros. In the church of this town in Zaragoza there is the famous 'Eccehomo' restored by Cecilia Giménez]. 30 November 2013. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  28. ^ Alan Clendenning (21 September 2012). "Disfigured Spain fresco rides global fame". Madrid. Associated Press.
  29. ^ Neild, Barry (20 September 2012). "Ecce Homo 'restorer' wants a slice of the royalties | Cecilia Giménez, who made a painting of Jesus look like a very hairy monkey, wants economic compensation". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 22 June 2018. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  30. ^ Thomas, Emily (14 August 2013). "Monkey Christ fresco boosts tourism". BBC News. Archived from the original on 11 October 2018. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  31. ^ "Botched restoration has visitors flooding to sleepy Spanish village". Spain: Euro Weekly News. 17 March 2016. Archived from the original on 6 October 2016. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  32. ^ Aitor Bengoa (16 March 2016). "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" [Borja's eccehomo already has someone to explain it. The Interpretation Center is inaugurated, focused on the painting that was touched up in 2012 by the amateur restorer Cecilia Giménez]. El Pais. Retrieved 5 April 2016.

External links[edit]

41°51′16.83″N 1°34′31.52″W / 41.8546750°N 1.5754222°W / 41.8546750; -1.5754222