Feature

The happy ending in the Beast Jesus fresco fiasco

The residents of Borja, Spain, profit from the worst art restoration ever

Last August, 81-year-old Cecilia Gimenez became a global laughingstock when she confessed to being the painter behind the "Beast Jesus" — an appallingly bad and unauthorized restoration of a 19th-century fresco in her church in Borja, Spain, depicting Jesus wearing a crown of thorns.

What a difference a year makes.

Once vilified for essentially destroying a masterpiece by a regional artist named Elias Garcia Martinez, Gimenez is now being hailed as an unlikely local hero. Her botched effort to spruce up the painting — originally named Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) but now widely known as Ecce Mono (Behold the Monkey) — has lured flocks of tourists to the town, creating a minor windfall for Gimenez, her town, and her church, the Santuario de Misericordia.

Here, a look at the economic boom fueled by what is widely seen as the worst artistic restoration of all time:

40,000
Visitors who have shown up in Borja to behold Gimenez's handiwork for themselves.

5,000
Population of Borja.

$1.30
The entry fee to see the fresco. The money goes to the town's Sancti Spiritus charity.

$66,285
Amount the fees and other donations from tourists have provided to the church's charity.

60
Elderly Borja residents living at a care home that is receiving money raised by the church.

52
Bids received on eBay for an original, 45-inch-by-34-inch painting by Gimenez in a Christmas charity fundraiser held by a Borja DJ last year.

$1,427
Winning bid for Gimenez's painting, Las Bodegas de Borja.

49
Percentage Gimenez will get from sales of merchandise bearing the image of the Beast Jesus, under a contract she signed this year with the charity overseeing the sales. The image is being emblazoned on keepsakes from T-shirts to tote bags.

5,000
Signatures on a petition at Change.org last year calling for Gimenez's version to be preserved, rather than having professional restorers try to salvage the original fresco. The petition said Gimenez's version "reveals a subtle criticism of the Church's creationist theories while questioning a resurgence of new idols."

1
Art exhibits featuring Gimenez's original paintings scheduled in Borja this month.

20
Paintings available for purchase in the show. "Now it seems like everyone's happy," Gimenez told a local paper, the Heraldo de Aragon. "I'm grateful that things have quieted down."

Sources: Associated Press, Daily Dot, Gawker, Huffington Post

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