In Spain, an amusingly botched fresco is now a moneymaker


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It was bemoaned as “catastrophic” and “unspeakable,” a botched restoration attempt that transformed a beloved, aging fresco of Jesus Christ into something more closely resembling an aghast ape.

Now it’s a moneymaker. And Cecilia Gimenez is asking whether she gets a cut.

The elderly woman who took a paintbrush to a church fresco in Spain, transforming the work once known as “Ecce Homo” (‘Behold the Man’) into what Spanish jokesters dubbed “Ecce Mono” (‘Behold the Monkey’), is now exploring her legal rights after the church started charging curious visitors.


The botched restoration has become a tourist draw, bringing in more than 2,000 euros (about $2,600) for the Fundacion Hospital Santi Spiritus in just four days, El Correo reported Wednesday.

Spanish television reported the recently introduced fee for looky-loos at a euro each, money that could be used to restore the fresco with a finer touch or for other charitable purposes. Since the mangled fresco made headlines, shocking and amusing people worldwide, about 30,000 people have flocked to the town of Borja, while Gimenez is in hiding from the media, reportedly suffering from anxiety.

“She wants to ensure this situation conforms to the law,” her attorney, Enrique Trebolle, told El Mundo. If that involves financial compensation, he said, the results would be beneficial. Gimenez could use the money to help her son who has muscular atrophy, as well as others who suffer from the disorder. The church foundation isn’t alone in cashing in on the “Ecce Mono” craze. The curiously simian rendition of the Spanish fresco has turned up on T-shirts, hoodies, mousepads, dog tags, pillows, puzzles, iPhone cases, onesies, tote bags and travel mugs, to name just a few of the offerings available online. Gimenez and her work have drawn not just jokesters but fans, one even dubbing the work a surrealist masterpiece; a petition to keep the new version of the fresco intact reached its goal of 20,000 signatures.

The family of the deceased painter, Elias Garcia Martinez, has called for the work to be restored and hinted about a lawsuit over the restoration-gone-wrong. The fresco was more than a century old and treasured in the town of Borja, though it was not believed to be especially valuable.

Now it’s treasured to some, trashed by others. But it definitely has a price tag.


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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles