Infamous Jesus painting restoration inspires opera about the woman who botched it

Cecilia Gimenez has given her blessing to the opera after becoming a local legend

Jess Denham
Friday 21 August 2015 16:44
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Cecilia Gimenez's attempt to restore Ecce Homo by Elias Garcia has become a tourist attraction in its own right
Cecilia Gimenez's attempt to restore Ecce Homo by Elias Garcia has become a tourist attraction in its own right

Preparations are underway for a comic opera about a Spanish artist who tried, hugely unsuccessfully, to restore a faded 1930 oil painting of Jesus Christ.

Cecilia Gimenez skyrocketed to viral fame after attempting to repair "Ecce Homo (Behold the Man)" by Elias Garcia Martinez and failing dismally. Her 2012 effort was soon branded "the worst restoration in history" and described as a "crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic".

Gimenez's "miraculous" story is now the basis for an upcoming production, which does not intend to mock her but instead "honour her faith that she could overcome this".

Three separate photos show the extent of the damage done

Andrew Flack, who has written the libretto, told the Guardian that the internet will play a key part in the opera.

"There were all these memes [of Gimenez's restoration] that were created - these crazy crazy memes. It was really the internet that caused the sensation," he said, adding that Gimenez, now 83, struggled to cope when she became famous for all the wrong reasons.

"She was devastated when it first happened. She was in depression, she was on medication, she felt so terrible. But then it kind of turned around."

Gimenez's artwork attracted more than 130,000 tourists to the local church in Borja, helping it economically in the midst of the eurozone crisis and turning her into a local legend.

Flack met Gimenez two years ago and she gave him her blessing to make the opera. He still talks to her family multiple times a week and plans to premiere the show in Borja.

The lesson? "That a miracle can come from a disaster, that you can make lemons from lemonade."

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