The original painting of “the monkey Christ” – Elias García Martinez’s vandalised fresco – may have been found.
You might remember the 19th century Spanish artist’s most famous work. Or at least, the most most famous version of it.
His Ecce Homo fresco in the Sanctuary of Mercy Church near Zaragoza was painted in 1895, but received an unofficial “restoration” in August 2012.
Kindly parishioner Cecilia Giménez, noting the fresco had suffered through decades of moisture damage, thought it could do with a touch-up.
Giménez had no training as an artist, nor talent, as you might be able to spot from her efforts:
Giménez, in her 80s, has since maintained that the local priest asked her to “restore” the image.
Zaragoza’s Ecce Homo has now become known as “the monkey Christ”. And since its makeover, has been more famous than ever, so much so that the town raised more than $72,000 within months of the desecration by charging tourists who flocked to see the update.
Adding pain upon pain, a local restorer had just received a donation from Martinez’s granddaughter to restore the work properly, but Giménez’s hamfisted effort was so bad, the best solution so far has been to “cover the wall with a photo of the painting”.
Hopefully, following the discovery of what is believed to be Martinez’s original Ecce Homo, that won’t be necessary.
Two antique dealers in Zaragoza came across the 55cm by 45cm oil painting in a private collection. It is dated a year before the Zaragoza fresco was painted and it believed to be a “modelo” – a finished work used as a study for the mural.
— Heraldo de Aragón (@heraldoes) November 17, 2016
One of the dealers, Ricardo Ostalé, told local paper, the Heraldo de Aragon, that he didn’t want the painting to be sold and would like to see it displayed alongside “the monkey Christ”.
“At the moment, Borja’s Ecce Homo is one of the most visited paintings in the world and, in that sense, it is one of the most genuinely popular works we have in Spain,” Ostalé said.
Even today, Giménez’s alteration remains one of the most visited artworks in the world.
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