Elderly woman who destroyed 19th-century Spanish fresco says 'I didn't do it secretly'


Matilda Battersby,John Hall
Saturday 25 August 2012 03:12
Three separate photos show the extent of the damage done by the unnamed woman to Elias Garcia Martinez’s work ‘Ecce Homo’.
Three separate photos show the extent of the damage done by the unnamed woman to Elias Garcia Martinez’s work ‘Ecce Homo’.

Cecilia Jimenez, the 80-year-old woman who inadvertently ruined a 19th-century fresco of Jesus, says she had the priest's permission to carry out the work.

The damage done to the hundred-year-old fresco ‘Ecce Homo’ by Elias Garcia Martinez at the Santuario de Misericodia church in Borja can be seen in the trio of images, above left.

"Everyone who came into the church could see me as I was painting," Jimenez said. "I didn't do anything secretly. The priest knew. How could I do something like this without permission?"

The damage was discovered because Martinez’s granddaughter made a donation to the Centro de Estudios Borjanos which holds an archive of local religious artworks, a couple of weeks ago.

Staff then went to check on the 'Ecco Homo' at the church near Zaragoza in north eastern Spain, only to find it dramatically altered.

Officials in the Spanish town are now trying to decide what to do with the ruined fresco, which despite not having any particular cultural or monetary value, is considered important locally.

Juan Maria Ojeda, an official in Borja town, said Jimenez took it upon herself to paint over the fresco with good intentions for its restoration rather than out of malice.

The image of Christ wearing a crown of thorns has been transformed beyond recognition, with a childlike reworking of Jesus’ face, broad brush strokes removing any subtlety from the clothing and thick layers of red and brown paint covering several key details.

'Ecce Homo' means 'Behold the Man' but Twitter users yesterday dubbed it 'Ecce Mono' meaning 'Behold the Monkey'.

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