Thursday 23 August 2012

Ecco Homo and a botched restoration: call for the Inquisition?

Before ...
Few items of religious art have had such indignities heaped upon them as Ecce Homo ("Behold the Man"), a church fresco by Elias Garcia Martinez which has decorated the Sanctuary of Mercy Church near Zaragoza Spain, for more than a century.  According to this item on today's BBC news, this celebrated artefact -- which was in admittedly poor condition -- has fallen victim to a someewhat surreal rescue attempt by Spanish pensioner Celicia Gimenez.  According to the BBC,
" ... The woman took her brush to it after years of deterioration due to moisture. Cultural officials said she had the best intentions and hoped it could be properly restored. ... [Giminez] claimed to have had the permission of the priest to carry out the job.
"(The) priest knew it! He did! How could you do something like that without permission? He knew it!"
... [T]he delicate brush strokes of Elias Garcia Martinez have been buried under a haphazard splattering of paint. The once-dignified portrait now resembles a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic ...

Art historians are expected to meet at the church soon to discuss how to proceed. ...

The fresco is not thought to be very valuable, but has a high sentimental value for local people.

... [T]he local centre that works to preserve artworks had just received a donation from the painter's granddaughter which they had planned to use to restore the original fresco. .."
... and after
Apart from the usual issues (possible actions for criminal vandalism, negligence, insurance claims), there is one point which should not be forgotten.  Cecilia Gimenez's botched restoration is so far from the original that it is inconceivable that anyone but she could be regarded as its author and original copyright owner.  Had she done the job properly, bringing the fresco back to its original form, the work would not have been the result of her own intellectual creation and, as a reward for her skill and accuracy, by recreating that which previously existed she would have had no greater right than anyone filling in a Painting by Numbers template.

Now for an irreverent footnote: Cecilia's surname -- Gimenez -- is the modern spelling of Ximenes.  Those familiar with the Spanish Inquisition may recall the name of Ximenes de Cisneros, a Cardinal who held strong views on matters of religious orthodoxy.  Had Cecilia been around at the time of her namesake, might she have been burned at the stake for blasphemy?

1 comment:

JFlee said...

She's our plug of the day: