Ecce Homo or monkey's uncle?
(Source: El Pais)
IT’S AN AGE-OLD TRUTH: There’s no accounting for artistic taste, but pretty much everyone understands the value of money. This is the experience of the Spanish town of Borja, which hit global headlines this past summer when a local pensioner surreptitiously “restored” a deteriorating nineteenth century fresco of Jesus in a hilltop chapel by essentially transforming it into a monkey.
The case first attracted contempt, then ridicule, then a lawsuit by the original artist’s heirs, and finally thousands of tourists, who have been paying four euros a pop to take a gander at Spain’s very first Holy Ape. The local hotel and restaurant business is booming, and the budget airline Ryan Air has even set up a special flight to nearby Zaragoza airport to handle the flow of offbeat art lovers. It seems that many visitors who would otherwise have walked passed artist Elías García Martínez’ unremarkable Ecce Homo fresco, recognize its revised form as a truly original incarnation of the Savior of Us All.
In fact, the Spanish daily El Pais tells us, soon after the transfiguration took place an online petition appeared calling for the preservation of the image as it now appears:
The bold, spontaneous work of the artist on the Ecce Homo in the Chapel of Mercy in Borja is also an intimate act of love, a clever reflection of the social and political situation of our time, which shows a subtle critique of the creationist theories of the Church, and also questions the emergence of new idols. … The result of the intervention cleverly combines the primitive expressionism of Francisco de Goya with figures such as Ensor, Munch, Modigliani or the Brücke group of German Expressionism.
Shouldn't the town also pay royalties to the Japanese Sekiguchi Corporation, which introduced the first Monchhichi toys in 1974?
(Source: Wiki Commons)
Now, the Guardian tells us, eighty year-old Cecilia Giménez, who now has over 30,000 “friends” on Facebook, has engaged the services of a lawyer to get her own piece of the action and start pulling in some of that tourist money. She has done so after repeatedly apologizing for the botched restoration, which she maintains she began with good intentions but which soon “got out of hand.” According to her sister in a telephone interview with the Spanish press, “She did it with all the good faith in the world. She just wanted to give it a bit of color, because the church is in very poor condition. … She has always had a passion for painting, ever since childhood. And she did it to make the church more beautiful, to help.”
As I said above, art is one thing, money is another. And yet, Giménez’ financial intentions are anything but mercenary. She promises to donate any royalties she receives to a charity for amyotrophy, a degenerative muscle disease from which her son is suffering.
Now it really would be worth writing postcards about if this fortuitous metamorphosis led to a cure for this dreaded ailment. So perhaps we should simply thank heaven for small miracles. I mean, stranger things by far have happened across the vast history of Catholic devotion. And just in case spontaneous healings start occurring at the foot of Borja’s Ecce Homo, you might want to stay on the safe side and book that flight to Zaragoza today.