BORJA, the once sleepy town of 5,000 about 300km north-east of Madrid, is where an amateur painter took pity on the sorry state of a late 19th century fresco portraying Jesus Christ in a biblical scene known as Ecce Homo or Behold the Man.
The fresco´s dire need of repair prompted octogenarian painter, Cecilia Gimenez to set to work restoring the image. Her efforts went viral three years ago, however, after her attempts at restoring Ecce Homo were nicknamed Ecce Mono or Behold The Monkey.
Despite the artist´s best intentions, the restored fresco could only be described as ‘flawed’ by critics and yet the botched restoration of the 100-year-old artwork turned the small town into an internet sensation.
At the time of the unveiling, local officials were rumoured to be mounting a legal action against the artist for her ‘unique’ take on the restorative process, however, three years later, they are likely to be thanking her.
The local art museum, Misericordia, has seen visitor numbers go from around 6,000 to 57,000 as tourists from all over Europe, Latin America, Australia, China and Japan have been to see the fresco and have donated some €50,000 (£43,000) into the collection box.
Monies earned from Ecce Mono have been used to employ additional attendants at the church and to fund the Sancti Spiritus foundation, which runs an old people’s home.
Also prospering from the artist´s efforts have been the local restaurants and cafés and leading local businesses are keento see the very marketable brand on their hands.
Borja´s mayor, FrancisoArilla said “After all that has happened, on balance it has been positive. This picture has been visited by many people from every country in the world.”
He went on to say “We’ve had a spontaneous advertising campaign which has done us proud in making the town known.”
In addition to her new found fame, a visitors centre has been just been launched to celebrate the handiwork of the elderly woman whose flawed attempt at retouching a 100-year-old artwork turned the small town in to a worldwide art sensation.
The decision to open the centre was aimed at giving “the painting a new impetus,” said Mr Arilla.
Also attending the opening ceremony on Wednesday March 16 was the granddaughter of the fresco´s original painter, Elias Garcia Martinez.
Proceeds from sales which include merchandise set to become available on Amazon, are to be split between Mrs Gimenez and the sanctuary’s home for retirees.