There’s an Opera About the Botched Restoration of ‘Ecce Homo’

Elías García Martínez, restored by Cecilia Giménez, Ecce Homo (ca. 1930/2012).

The tragicomic story of the botched restoration of Ecce Homo—which has gone so wrong as to be dubbed “The Monkey Christ” or “Beast Jesus”—has become the subject of an opera production.

Behold the man tells the story of Cecilia Giménez and her now legendary touch-up of the suffering Jesus Christ fresco, originally painted by Elías García Martínez in 1930 in the Santuario de Misericordia church in Borja, Zaragoza.

The opera will premiere in Boulder, Colorado next spring and in 2017 will travel to the Spanish village where it all began.

The botched fresco went viral shortly after it was first revealed in 2012. A huge number of nicknames, memes, and humorous coverage soon took over media outlets and social media.

85-year old Giménez suffered from panic attacks as a result of the worldwide exposure of her failed restoration at first, but things took an unexpected turn as her revamped Ecce Homo started amassing millions of followers from all over the world.

So wide is its appeal now that the small village of Borja has experienced a touristic renaissance of sorts, welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors who want to see the fresco.

Cecilia Gómez and her botched restoration have become the subject of an opera<br>Photo: via Andalucía Información

Cecilia Giménez and her botched restoration have become the subject of an opera
Photo: via Andalucía Información

Meanwhile, the story of Giménez and her unsolicited brushwork has been turned into a full-fledged, humorous opera, with librettos, stage design, and a cast of nine singers. “She is a heroine,” Andrew Flack, who wrote the opera, told El País.

Giménez knows about the production, and seems a little nonplussed about her growing celebrity status. “I’ve received news of it as I receive news of projects from all over the world. Germany, everywhere,” she told El País.

This won’t be the first time Giménez serves as an inspiration for a musical score. A song by Zaragozan musician Angel Petisme released last year depicted her as a local hero, and Giménez even starred in the video clip.

Another art-world related opera has premiered recently, based on the life and work of Andy Warhol.

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