Cack-handed restorer may face brush with the law

By Miren Hurtado
Story published in The Guardian on 24 August 2012

An 81-year-old who garnered worldwide media attention after she tried – and spectacularly failed – to restore a painting in her local church may face legal charges.

Cecilia Giménez, the well-intentioned amateur restorer from Borja, north-east Spain, is reportedly in bed after an anxiety attack, with neighbours and relatives suggesting she feels overwhelmed because of the media frenzy over the unintentional damage she caused to the mural.

The damage to the painting in the church of la Misericordia de Borja is reportedly being investigated by experts, with the artist´s descendants apparently unhappy than an individual decided to take the restoration job into her own hands. They fear her handiwork may be irreversible.

Giménez told Spanish television that the priest knew about her attempts at restoration to the Ecce Homo painting by Elías García Martínez and that she had done nothing in secret. “The priest knew it and everyone who came into the church could see I was painting,” she insists.

Ecce Homo by Elias Garcia Martinez showing damage
Image: The Guardian. The Ecce Homo fresco before and after Cecilia Giménez’s restorative efforts.

Although no one seems sure when she embarked on the restoration project, news of the incident first appeared on the blog of the Centre for Borja Studies a fortnight ago. The centre posted some before-and-after pictures, along with a message confirming that someone had recently been up to no good with a brush.

As incredible as it may seem, this is all that remains of the work of an artist whose descendants still live in our city,” it said.

We do not know whether this unspeakable deed can be remedied, but there can be no doubt whatsoever that someone should take the necessary action to ensure that such behaviour is not repeated. Whatever the motives were, it must be roundly condemned.”

Professional restorers plan to examine the painting to gauge whether restoration is possible.

According to the local paper El Heraldo de Aragón, the city council is reportedly considering legal action against Giménez. Her actions meant the 19th-century painting, which was already in a poor condition, had been “completely destroyed”, one councillor, Juan María de Ojeda, said.

Ojeda nonetheless criticised media attention as “disproportionate.

Giménez’s efforts have been described as ‘the worst restoration in history’, ‘a botched job’, and ‘a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic.’

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