The 'worst art restoration in history' is getting its very own opera

The "Ecce Homo" artwork.
(Image credit: Twitter.com/MarAbad)

Without the internet, no one outside the tiny Spanish town of Borja would have known the name Cecilia Giménez.

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Giménez, 83, gained unwanted fame in 2012 for her well-intentioned attempt at restoring a painting of Jesus Christ, Ecce Homo ("Behold the Man"), at her local church. The touch-up was widely panned (one person called it "the worst art restoration ever") and countless people posted images of the painting online, mocking both it and Giménez. She became depressed, friend Andrew Flack says, but her spirits turned around once the people of Borja realized she was behind an influx of tourists coming to the town during an economic lull to see Ecce Homo in person. "What Cecilia did is miraculous in some way," Flack told The Guardian.

Flack was one of the many people inspired by Giménez, and he set off to Borja in 2013 to meet her and ask if she would let him write an opera about her story. She agreed, and Flack wrote the libretto for Behold the Man, a comic opera. "We're not making fun of Cecilia — we're really honoring her faith that she could overcome this," he said. Because her notoriety spread online, the internet is a character in the opera, Flack said, and he plans to hold the premiere in Borja. Flack believes that everyone can relate to the opera's message: "That a miracle can come from a disaster, that you can make lemons from lemonade," he said. "Or that you make a terrible mistake on a fresco and it turns into something beneficial."

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for TheWeek.com. Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and EW.com, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.