Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Saturday 17 April |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Mariana of Jesus
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

Local anger at horribly restored “Ecce Homo” subsides as tourism thrives

ECCE HOMO,PHOTOGRAPHER

CESAR MANSO | AFP

J-P Mauro - published on 01/06/19

The botched restoration of this painting may have inadvertantly helped to restore the town.

If ever there was tangible evidence that God has a plan, we need look no further than the Spanish painting, Ecce Homo. Even those who are not interested in art may remember the memes which made famous the frightening, albeit well-meant, restoration of the early 20th-century painting, which has been dubbed “Monkey Christ” or “Potato Jesus” since Doña Cecilia Giménez, then 81, took on the task of restoring it in 2012.

Originally painted in 1930 by Elías García Martínez, the piece was in dire need of repair. While Giménez was only an amateur painting restorer, she could not stand by idle while the piece with so much significance to the Spanish town of Borja slowly deteriorated. Unfortunately, she had to go out of town before she finished her work and in that brief time, someone saw the unfinished piece and a meme was born.

For several months the town, feeling itself the laughing stock of the internet, turned their outrage towards Giménez, who reportedly lost 17 kg from stress and worry. Some of the anger subsided when they learned the kindly old lady had given it all she had, but now the people are praising her work, as the botched restoration has inadvertently restored the towns tourism.

The Guardian reports 45,824 people visited the Sanctuary of Mercy church, where the Ecce Homo hangs, between August and December of 2012. The numbers have dropped a bit, but in the following years they have received about 16,000 visitors annually. This is more than four times the amount Borja saw in years prior to the restoration.

The town has begun merchandizing the restored image, printing it upon bottles, thimbles, bookmarks, teddy bears, pens, mugs, T-shirts, mousepads, badges, fridge magnets and key rings. Revenues from their sales have been enough to provide jobs for the sanctuary-museum’s two caretakers and it has helped fund Borja’s care home for the elderly.

The town’s mayor, Eduardo Arilla, seems happy with the results, telling the Guardian:

“It was a media phenomenon, but it’s also been a social phenomenon when it comes to helping people,” he says. “If it hadn’t happened, maybe Borja would have become famous for something else, like its wine. But we wouldn’t be as well known as we are now.”
Tags:
Art
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.