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Botched Ecce Homo Painting, also known as “Potato Jesus”, refers to the failed restoration of a century-old Spanish devotional fresco, executed by an elderly amateur art restorer. The result of the botched restoration spawned a photoshop meme, in which the ruined painting was edited in to other famous works of art, movie scenes or other memetic images.
On August 21st, 2012, the Spanish publication Heraldo published an article about a failed painting restoration performed by an elderly woman named Cecilia Jiménez. Jiménez wished to restore a damaged fresco created by Spanish painter Elías García Martínez named Ecce Homo (“Behold the Man”), which was donated to the Santuario de Misericordia Church in the Spanish town of Borja. According to the church, Jiménez restored the painting without permission. However, she has claimed the priest allowed her to do so. After assessing the damage caused by the restoration, the church announced they would be hiring a professional to attempt to undo the botched job. Following the press coverage of the painting, Jimenez was reported to have been suffering from crippling anxiety attacks, reluctant to eat or leave her home.
On August 21st, 2012, Redditor rolmos submitted a post to /r/pics titled “An old church in Spain needed to restore a worn out painting. They hired the wrong person”, which included photographs of the painting before and after it was altered. Within two days, the post received over 11,000 upvotes and 750 comments. Redditor donosti replied to the post with an edited version of the failed restoration made to appear as if it were an illustration of a lion (shown below, left). On August 22nd, a 4chan thread nicknamed the painting “Potato Jesus” (shown below, right), which referenced the I Can Count to Potato image macro series. The thread was not archived.
On August 22nd, a Facebook group titled Beast Jesus Restoration Society was created, receiving 4050 likes in just under two weeks. The creators started a single topic Tumblr the following day dedicated to photoshopped images featured on the Facebook page. Also on the 23rd, a Twitter account @FrescoJesus was created, gaining nearly 7000 followers in two weeks. By mid-September, the restored painting had been featured by major English-language news outlets as well as other newspapers in 160 countries worldwide.
MY FACE!!! WHAT HAPPENED TO MY FACE!!!!!!— Fresco Jesus (@FrescoJesus) August 23, 2012
On August 22nd, a Change.org petition was created, urging officials not to remove Jiménez’s restoration, calling the botched painting “daring” and looking at it as an example of the Expressionism art movement. As of August 31st, the petition has 22,185 signatures out of the 25,000 it is asking for. The petition was also shared on the Huffington Post, MSN.com and Gawker.
The Cecilia Prize
A restoration generator known as the Cecilia Prize was launched by creative team BBH London on August 24th, 2012 with a competition to see who could come up with the best interpretation of the painting. The submitted images were then funneled into a Pinterest board (shown below) and a Twitter feed with the hashtag #ceciliaprize. The contest was featured on the Huffington Post, AdWeek and CNet, noting that the winner would receive a poster of the original painting.
Gimenez Demands Royalties
On September 19th, Spanish newspaper El Correo reported that Cecilia Gimenez has claimed copyright on her restoration while demanding royalties from the Santi Spiritus Hospital Foundation, the church organization that owns the restored painting. According to local news reports, the church has earned more than 2,000 euros in the first four days after implementing an entrance fee of one euro on visitors and tourists who flocked to see the now infamous painting in real life. Speaking on behalf of Gimenez, one of her attorneys Enrique Trebolle explained that the client “just wants the church to conform to the law” and would like to donate the proceedings towards Muscular atrophy charities.
The Telegraph – Elderly woman who botched religious fresco demands royalties