The story goes:

A devout Spanish woman is being roundly criticized after taking it upon herself to restore a church fresco of Jesus, a ham-fisted attempt that left the piece looking like a child’s daubing.

Here is the end result:

enter image description here

It cracks me up every time I look at it, but the story seems like a fake. The thing that I think gives it away are the images of the two paintings side-by-side.

So is there any truth in this story?

There appears to be no evidence of the original painting aside from the image being circulated.

  • 2
    Excellent question. I've failed to find much corroborating evidence; not speaking Spanish is a hindrance. What I have found, for anyone trying to do better: there is an area 67kms from Zaragoza/Saragossa called Santuario de la Misericordia, which translates as "Sanctuary of Mercy", so I'm guessing that is where the church is. Some sources have the fresco called "Ecco Homo", but they probably mean "Ecce Homo". I couldn't find the official quoted.
    – Oddthinking
    Aug 24 '12 at 0:22
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    Ah, this has a summary including interview footage from the Telegraph. If it is a fake news story, it is a high quality one.
    – Oddthinking
    Aug 24 '12 at 0:27
  • @Oddthinking - Seems to have hit the New York Times and is now trending on Google News as well.
    – rjzii
    Aug 24 '12 at 2:44
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    @Oddthinking - I've searched extensively and I believe that the church exists, but I can't find any information about the original work or an original in situ photograph. There are some photos of the place on Flickr, but I can't spot the painting in any of them and there are no pre-2011 Google results that mention the painting when combined with the location. Seems fishy to me. Noticed some dude has already added the painting to 'Ecce Homo' Wikipedia.
    – going
    Aug 24 '12 at 4:31
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    Keep in mind, that it's just fresco done by local painter in local church, Elías García Martínez didn't even have entry in Spanish wikipedia until yesterday. And only other mention of the author is in museum in Requena, town of 21.000 people.
    – vartec
    Aug 24 '12 at 10:51

Yes, it's real.

It has been extensively covered by Spanish national TV (TVE) and newspapers (mainstream, not tabloids).

The news originates from Centro de Estudios Borjanos (Study Center of Borja). It has been originally reported on their blog on 7th of August.

15 days later it has been picked up by regional newspaper Heraldo de Aragón. From there it made national news and went viral internationally.

The painting itself has been mentioned 2 years ago in one of Centro de Estudios Borjanos information bulletins (Boletín Informativo nº 129-130 of 2010)


Keep in mind, that it is not priceless art masterpiece, as some international news suggest. It's been painted by local painter in local church. Elías García Martínez didn't even have entry in Spanish wikipedia until yesterday. And only other mention of the author is in museum in Requena, town of 21.000 people.

Above bulletin doesn't mention exact date when it was painted, but gives some hints as author lived in region of Zaragoza in 1894-1934. The painting is a copy of engraving by William Trench, which itself is a copy of medieval painting by Guido Reni. The painting is a mural, but it is not fresco. It's painted with oil paint.

  • Any idea about the authenticity of the information bulletins? How are they typically available? Can we access them from the source?
    – going
    Aug 24 '12 at 12:00
  • @xiaohouzi79: Centro de Estudios Borjanos is the source. Again, it's a local center in rather small town, 5K population. Which has been caught quite by surprise with all the international interest.
    – vartec
    Aug 24 '12 at 12:04
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    I seem to recall reading some where this is not even a particularly old(by art standards) fresco but rather one which was done in the 1900's in the style of the old masters.
    – Chad
    Aug 24 '12 at 12:09
  • @Chad: right, copy of a copy. Added that info.
    – vartec
    Aug 24 '12 at 12:26
  • @Vartec - I think it may have been a fresco. A fresco is a painting done on wet plaster.
    – Chad
    Aug 24 '12 at 12:36

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