Tourists visiting Cecilia Gimenez’s botched fresco restoration in the church in Borja (this and last image via

Not only does the internet love Cecilia Gimenez and her Beast Jesus restoration job — so do real life, flesh-and-blood people! Apparently hundreds of tourists have begun making pilgrimages to see the work and take pictures with it, after the apparently well-intentioned octogenarian Eskimo-fied Elías García Martínez’s 19th-century fresco of Jesus. The painting sits on a column between two altars in the Iglesia del Santuario de Misericordia church in Borja, Spain, a small town with a population of around 5,000. Who said the internet was only good for weak ties?

Elías García Martínez’s “Ecce Homo”: before and after

According to the AFP, there’s also a petition circulating online to leave the painting in all its new folk-art glory, rather than have professionals attempt to repair and restore to its former state. Although it’s in Spanish, a translation via Google offers some insight. The author, Javier Domingo, calls Gimenez’s work “a subtle critique of creationist theories of the Church, as well as [a] question[ing of] the emergence of new idols.” We couldn’t agree more — except maybe to point out that Jesus isn’t really a new idol. Domingo goes on to link her style to Goya, James Ensor, Munch, Modigliani and the German Expressionists. More than 20,000 people have signed it.

But even though she’s getting tons of love from both the internet and visiting tourists, 81-year-old Gimenez is in bed after having an anxiety attack about the whole affair. It doesn’t help that the city council is apparently contemplating legal action against her. Now that she’s bringing in tourists, will they relent? Or will this become a battle pitting the government versus the people, the art establishment versus the 99%?

There’s a whole series of images, including this one, of tourists visiting the botched Jesus restoration on El Pais.

Going from virtual unknown to creator of the biggest internet meme since the pepper-spray cop must be a lot to handle, so Gimenez’s anxiety makes sense. Except there’s still that one nagging question we’ve wondered about all along: why didn’t she put down her brush and ask for help as soon as she realized she was out of her depth?

We may never know. In the meantime, we think should get out of bed and go greet her fans like the star that she is. Pose with them! Sign the work! Own it. Maybe the Borja City Council can work out an acquisition with the American Folk Art Museum. There may even be a movie deal waiting to happen.

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...

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