There’s a Surprise Happy Ending for That Catastrophically Botched Jesus Painting

The restoration of a Jesus fresco captivated headlines last year after an elderly artist monumentally failed in her attempt to return the artwork to its former glory. The 19th-century painting, which once showed Jesus Christ wearing a crown of thorns, ended up looking entirely different following the catastrophic “restoration.” But just one year later, the situation has taken a surprising turn, with residents of Borja, Spain — and the artist — actually making a profit from the flap.

Cecilia Gimenez, 82, was widely derided after the image of Jesus was altered to look like what some said was an ape or another unrecognizable creature. Despite giving all “the love in the world” in her attempt to restore the painting, the end result wasn’t what she had hoped. Following the world-wide criticism, Gimenez said that she suffered a panic attack and was heartsick over the attention the restoration received.

But one year later, Gimenez is being praised as a hero who has brought a plethora of tourists to see the now-infamous fresco, The Week reported. Originally called Ecce Homo (“Behold the Man”), the painting is now affectionately referred to as Ecce Mono (“Behold the Monkey”).

In this combination of two undated handout photos made available by the Centro de Estudios Borjanos, the 20th century Ecce Homo-style fresco of Christ , left and the ‘restored’ version, at right. A year ago, a botched restoration of a fresco of Christ by an 80-year-old Spanish pensioner drew mocking laughter. (AP)

The restored painting can be found in the Santuario de Misericordia, a church in Borja. In an effort to capitalize off the interest in the flap, a $1.30 admission is being charged to see the fresco, and the money, in turn, goes to a local charity. To date, more than $66,000 has been raised. The charity, called Sancti Spiritus, helps pay bills at a nursing home that houses 60 elderly individuals.

The church has essentially become a tourist attraction, with 40,000 people showing up to see Gimenez’s work. For a town of only 5,000, that’s pretty impressive.

The image, which was not long so ago seen as an embarrassment, will now bring in money for the painter, as well. She is set to sign a merchandizing contract that will allow her to take in 49 percent of the profits that come from the sale of tote bags and other items that feature the Ecce Mono’s likeness.

“Now it seems like everyone’s happy,” Gimenez said in an interview with Heraldo de Aragon over the weekend. “I’m grateful that things have quieted down.”

(H/T: The Week)