Elderly woman takes it upon herself to restore a church’s 19th century fresco. Then ………

We admire people who have can-do, elbow-grease-type attitudes. If something’s broke, why not fix it? Especially badly-damaged artwork. How hard can it be to just pick up a paintbrush and fix a fresco? Well, as it turns out — and as an elderly Spanish woman learned recently: pretty hard.

A couple of weeks ago, the Centro de Estudios Borjanos in Borja, Spain, received a donation from the granddaughter of 19th-century painter Elías García Martínez. At the time, the Centro knew of only one painting by Martínez in Borja — Ecce Homo, a fresco on the walls of the church of Santuario de Misericordia.

That’s it above. The leftmost image is how the painting looked two years ago; the middle image is how it looked in July, when it was photographed for a catalog of regional religious art. The image on right is how it looked when the Centro went to check it out on August 6th after receiving the donation. Hmm.

The restored version is apparently the work of an octogenarian neighbor of the church, who, noticing the damage to the painting, took it upon herself to restore the painting “with good intentions” but “without asking permission,” as culture councillor Juan Maria de Ojeda put it. It became clear to the amateur restorer — quickly, one imagines — that “she had gotten out of hand,” and she confessed to local authorities.

Not a… great job. But a great effort!

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