| OVERWHELMING support for the elderly lady who 'ruined' a fresco of the Ecce Homo has been seen on social networks, and a massive campaign has been launched to leave the painting as she left it.
Some 15,000 signatures have been collected on an online petition for the council of Borja (Zaragoza) to abandon its plans to put the early 20th-century painting back to its previous state (pictured, left) and leave the handiwork of Cecilia Giménez, 81, intact.
Despite protests from the Teresa García, granddaughter of the original painter Elías García Martínez, members of the public and Spanish celebrities are fully backing Cecilia.
Teresa García says she will not take legal action against Giménez - who was confined to bed today after being ill with a panic attack - given that she took it upon herself to restore the fresco 'with the best intentions' and that the town council had never made any effort to repair it previously.
The painting was in a very deteriorated state and almost unrecognisable when Cecilia started work on it, although she said she used a photograph to guide her.
One of her family members said she had not even finished the restoration work as she had been taking a break, and it would have looked fine when she had completed it.
Parish vicar Florencio Garcés, who knew Cecilia was restoring the painting without permission from the artist's family, said it should be temporarily covered up to avoid members of the public poking fun at it.
But with reporters from 27 TV channels and newspapers based all over the world wanting to be there when the 'real' restorers inspect the painting, and with comedian Berto Romero encouraging the town hall to charge entry tickets - "don't you see that you've won the lottery? Not even Damien Hirst in his wildest dreams could have imagined such media interest" - the new face of the Ecce Homo is becoming something of a cult figure.
Film director Álex de la Iglesia and writer Jesús Ferrero both say the elderly art-lover has turned a 'stuffy academic piece' into 'an icon of our time'.
Ferrero says Cecilia Giménez has 'dared to take a step that even Picasso never took' by 'adapting a classic by intervening directly onto the canvas' and 'converting one work of art into another'.
Author Javier Domingo, in his petition on change.org, says the painting now represents 'an act of love' and 'intelligence' that 'reflects the contemporary social and political environment'.
He says Cecilia's controversial work 'intelligently combines the primitive expressionism of Goya with figures such as Ensor, Munch, Modigliani and the German expressionist movement, the Die Brücke group'.