An elderly woman in Spain has destroyed a 19th century church fresco with her attempts at a DIY restoration that she undertook without permission.
The “Ecce Homo” a depiction of Christ crowned with thorns painted by local artist Elias Garcia Martinez has graced the wall of the Santuario de Misericodia Church in the village of Borja, near Zaragoza, Spain, for more than 120 years.
But over the last 18 months its surface has deteriorated due to moisture in the church, causing parts of the painting to flake off.
A woman in her 80s, upset at the worsening state of an image she loved to gaze on, took it upon herself to restore the artwork to its former glory, but with devastating results.
The result was a botched repair in which the original face has been almost completely painted over with amateur brushstrokes and the image now resembles more ape than man.
“Unfortunately a local resident with very good intentions decided without consulting anyone that she would restore the fresco,” confirmed Javier Silvestre, the councillor of Culture at Borja town hall.
“The result is disastrous and we are consulting experts to see what can be done.”
A panel of art historians will meet at the church next week to consider the problem.
The amateur restorer had completed her transformation of the masterpiece without anyone noticing and the “restoration” was only discovered when descendants of the artist made a donation towards its upkeep and an expert was sent out to examine the fresco.
At first church authorities thought it had been deliberately vandalised until the octogarian came forward and admitted her role.
The Centro de Estudios Borjanos, a local cultural organisation responsible for the preservation of artistic heritage in the town has called for a full investigation into how it was allowed to happen.
A spokesman from the Centre said: “The value of the original work was not very high but it was more of a sentimental value.” It was painted by Elias Garcia Martinez who is the father of two well known local artists and the family had made a donation towards its preservation.
“The lady, who is in her 80s, acted without authorisation from anyone.
“The church is always open because many people visit and although there is a guard, no one realised what the old woman was doing until she had finished,” the spokesman said.
Relatives of the artist are considering legal action against the DIY restorer.
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