Original Ecce Homo painting shows ‘pre-botch’ Jesus

A painting has been discovered that shows the original Ecce Homo, a fresco made infamous when an octogenarian amateur artist attempted to restore it - with disastrous results.

Original Ecce Homo painting shows 'pre-botch' Jesus
The painting used as a model for the fresco had been discovered. Photo; AFP

Two antique dealers in Zaragoza made the discovery of what they believe to be the original painting by Elias García Martinez, used by the artist as a study for the mural in the chapel in Borja.

“It is not a sketch but a finished work, what the Italians call a ‘modelo’,” Ricardo Ostalé, who along with David Maturén owns an art gallery in Zaragoza, explained to local paper, the Heraldo de Aragon.

It means there is now a faithful representation of how the fresco appeared before it was transformed by the disastrous amateur restoration.

The oil painting measuring 55cm by 45cm is signed by the artist and dated a year before the fresco was painted on the wall of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mercy in Borja.

“It is dated 1894, just a year before the fresco was painted on the wall of the chapel,” said Ostalé, who said it was likely that the painting stood beside the artist as a model while he reproduced the image stroke by stroke onto the wall.

The artwork was discovered in the private collection of a local art lover this week and will be displayed alongside the botched restoration that has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors since it made international headlines in the summer of 2012.

The fresco attracted little attention beyond that of parishioners in Borja until Cecilia Giménez, now 86, picked up her paint brush and attempted to restore the peeling fresco to its former glory.

At first her botched creation drew criticism from church authorities and art historians who decried the ruination of the 19th century artwork but it quickly became an internet sensation and changed the fortunes of a town once crippled by the economic crisis.

Originally called Ecce Homo – Behold the Man – the image quickly won the sobriquet “Ecce Mono” –  Behold the Monkey – and was reproduced on T-shirts, souvenir mugs and wine labels.

The story has now been made into an opera that was staged in the town in August.

The art dealers insist the painting is not for sale but has already attracted interest from art collectors around the world.

“The painting should stay in Borja,” explained Ostalé.  “It could be exhibited in the sanctuary next to that of Cecilia Giménez. At the moment, Borja’s Ecce Homo is one of the most visited paintings in the world and, in that sense, it is one of the most genuinely popular works we have in Spain.”

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Spain laughs (and groans) at yet another botched art restoration

Oops. Spain did it again.

Spain laughs (and groans) at yet another botched art restoration
Before and after photos taken by Antonio Guzman Capel.

The attempted repair of a statue on the façade of an historic building in the Spanish city of Palencia has been mocked for its “cartoon like appearance” in the latest case of Spanish art restoration gone wrong.  

The new restoration disaster is making headlines in Spain after it emerged that a weathered sculpture on the one of the city’s most emblematic buildings had undergone a revamp that didn’t exactly turn out as it should.

'It's more like a cartoon head than the artistic head of one of Palencia's most emblematic buildings,' outraged local painter Antonio Guzman Capel wrote in a Facebook with before and after shots of the statue.

Photo of the botched restoration taken by artist Antonio Guzman Capel. 

One social media user compared the new sculpture to 'sand sculptures kids do on the beach,' while another quipped that “it looked like a plasticine model made in kindergarden”.

The statue was reportedly replaced during restoration work on the listed building which dates from 1919 and now houses a Unicaja bank.

It is unclear who is responsible for the “restoration” which is labeled a “chapuza” in Spanish. 

It has been dubbed the new Ecce Homo, in reference to the now infamous attempts by Cecilia Giménez, who in 2012 at the age of 82 decided to touch-up a painting in her local chapel.


The orginal work by Elias Garcia had deteriorated before the botched restoration Photo: AFP

The disastrous repair made headlines across the world, but changed the fortunes of the small Aragon town of Borja by attracting tourists and even inspired an opera.

Two years ago another restoration attempt also brought ridicule when a 500-year-old St George’s statue in a corner of a small church in Navarra suffered the indignity of a rather garish paint job.

Before and after images of the statue in the hamlet of Estella, Navarra.

Almudena Gonzalez, another local, wrote on Facebook that the Palencia restoration 'makes me want to cry.'

'It's terrible. And to think of all the great artists we have.'