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Cecilia, Ecce Homo restorer, to exhibit her works in Zaragoza
By thinkSPAIN Team Mon, Jan 20, 2014
AN 82-YEAR-OLD art restorer whose unfinished work on the Ecce Homo went viral on the internet is getting ready for an exhibition of her works in the city of Zaragoza.
Cecilia Giménez has already held an exhibition in the village of Borja where she lives – the location of the cathedral where she literally changed the face of the 19th-century Christ fresco – selling several of her paintings, and is about to stage another in the provincial capital, Spain's fifth-largest city.
Already, she has received floods of letters 'from Germany and Japan' as well as 'goodness knows how many gifts' from international tourists who have travelled Borja to see the Ecce Homo's incomplete restoration.
Possibly the most famous octogenarian in Spain and one of the most well-known in the world, Cecilia still maintains that her 'botched' restoration of the Ecce Homo was not finished.
“I had been spending many years repairing the fresco, which was badly faded and damaged, but the saltpeter in the stone wall of the cathedral made it very difficult,” Cecilia explains.
“I decided the best solution was to 'stain' the plaster and let the paint run and soak in, leave it to dry and then return to it and add in the detail.
“But by the time I'd got back from my holiday, having left it drying out, the news had already broken.”
The relatives of the original artist had threatened to sue her for criminal damage, and the photo of the half-finished restoration had hit the world's headlines, causing Cecilia to take to her bed with a panic attack.
But support for her was overwhelming and petitions were launched within less than 24 hours calling for the picture to be left as it was, whilst international tourists in Spain were already planning a detour to visit the picture first-hand.
In under a week, Ryanair was offering flights to Zaragoza from UK airports for one pound, and visitors had come from as far away as Japan to snap up photos of the fresco.
As a result, Cecilia agreed to leave the painting as it was, and the relatives of the artist dropped their legal action.
And Borja, a once-unremarkable village of 4,000 inhabitants is now firmly on the world map.
Bars and restaurants are busy round the clock and have seen their taking soar since Cecilia's restoration went viral.
The town council began to charge a euro as an entry fee, which would go towards the upkeep of the cathedral, and last spring Cecilia won an appeal for a percentage of that money to be paid to her in royalties.
She has recently been given a personal homage ceremony and been presented with a bunch of flowers in recognition of her – albeit unwitting – contribution to Borja, turning its fortunes around in a way it could never have pictured two years ago.
Also in recent interviews, Cecilia showed her staunch support for the parish priest Florencio Garcés, who was arrested and charged in the autumn for various offences including the alleged 'theft' of 180,000 euros.
Cecilia said she had no idea why he had been charged, that he was a 'beautiful person' and that she could not believe he would be guilty of any criminal offence.
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