OAP who ruined fresco wants royalties after crowds flock


Behold the ManCentro de estudios Borjanos/AP/Press Association Images

Last month we reported the tale of a Spanish pensioner who had seen a fresco in her local church fall into a state of disrepair, and decided to do something about it. Her botched DIY job was roundly mocked, and there were threats of legal action.

However, as we predicted, the disaster has been a massive money-spinner for the town - after tourists flocked to see the work. And now the painter wants in on the action.


Cecilia Giménez, 80, is a regular at Santuario de Misericordia Church, near Zaragoza. She was distressed at the deterioration of the fresco of Jesus Christ in a crown of thorns, known as Behold The Man, and decided to do something about it.

Unfortunately her painting skills weren't quite up to the standards of the original, and in some quarters it has been referred to as Behold the Monkey.

Her work was discovered when the granddaughter of the artist put up the money for a professional restoration and it emerged that Giménez had got there first. There was an outcry, and media around the world reported the story.


At the time we pointed out that this could be a massive money-spinner for all concerned, and indeed it has proved so.

So far, in less than a month, 30,000 victors have flocked to see the work. The town was so overwhelmed with visitors (and aware that many of them weren't donating to the church) that the Santi Spiritus Hospital Foundation, the church's owners, established a €1 entrance fee.

The full receipts are not known, and as the fee was only introduced a week ago, many thousands have not paid. However, Giménez realises that the town that mocked her is now making money from her, and according to reports from TV station TVE, she has decided to sue for a share of the entrance fee.


She is also looking into copyrighting the work in order to prosper from its use on mementos and knick-knacks.

It is already being used by many - including a Madrid bakery that has made chocolate replicas.

However, other users could be harder to profit from. The painting has its own Twitter account and Facebook page. Within days of appearing, versions of the painting worked into pastiches of the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and The Scream were doing the rounds online. So this may have got away from her already.

Ryanair is even in on the act. It launched a €12 flight to Zaragoza for tourists who want to victim the work.

Is it worth it?

The Foundation which owns the church is preparing its legal team, and they are threatening to do battle.

However, you can't help but wonder whether the legal route is worth the bother. Surely if she has done it once, Giménez can do it again, and there's a huge future for her in church paintings, and versions of Behold the Monkey. She could tour, paint portraits, and give talks on what it's like to be an octogenarian in the spotlight.

We eagerly await her Tate Modern exhibition....

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