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Fresco frenzy, a decade on: How a botched painting became a town's greatest asset
Thursday, August 18, 2022 @ 10:11 PM

MAKING an embarrassing mistake and the whole town finding out is not exactly on everyone's bucket list. The world's press reporting it with a picture of you is rare if you're not a pop star, silver-screen artist or international sports personality, but is exceptionally traumatic if it does happen. And your blunder turning your sleepy little village into a global tourism magnet raking in millions for local traders is almost unprecedented.

Yet a 91-year-old lady living in an Aragón care home can proudly say she has achieved just that.

Left to right: The original fresco by Elías García Martínez; the state it was in before Cecilia Giménez started to restore it; the state it was in when the world's media published pictures of it. Cecilia said later she had not finished it

Cecilia Giménez was younger then, and more active – 81, a regular churchgoer and keen watercolour painter with passion and talent.

Purely for her own enjoyment, she restored a canvas of the Virgin Mary at the Santuario de Misericordia ('Sanctuary of Mercy'), her local parish, saving the committee a fortune, and she sought to do the same with a post-war fresco of the head of Christ, by the little-known artist Elías García Martínez.

Oil-on-fresco does not tend to last, and García Martínez's failure to use the correct materials meant his 66 x 40 centimetre (about 2'2” x 1'4”) portrait titled Ecce Homo was in a very poor state when Cecilia started work on it.

Much later, she insisted that she hadn't finished it, and that's why the photos of it in the regional newspaper, El Heraldo de Aragón, showed it looking nothing like the original.



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