- Shin Suzuki
- BBC News – Brazil – Sao Paulo
It all started on August 7, 2012, with a post on a culture and arts blog in Borja, a small town in Spain, with a population of just 5,000.
The post was talking about a fresco painted on the wall of the town’s Shrine of Mercy church subjected to a mysterious “intervention” that led to its mutilation.
The mural bears the name “Ecce Homo”, a painting of Christ dating back to 1930, by Spanish painter Elias García Martinez.
It didn’t take long for the people of Borja, or “Borja” as the Spanish word for it, to discover what had happened to the painting, which was not well preserved and in need of maintenance and restoration.
Soon, the identity of the mysterious person behind the clumsy attempt to restore the painting was revealed. It is Cecilia Jimenez, an elderly woman from the town and also a parishioner of the church, and she was 81 years old at the time.
Armed with “goodwill”, Cecilia decided to solve the problem of not maintaining the painting herself, despite her lack of experience and knowledge of the required technical techniques.
‘A storm of irony’
Needless to say, it sparked storms of ridicule that swept social media, made it to the news, and within a few weeks the story and its heroine became the subject of comedy shows around the world.
The event reverberated so strongly that the image of the distorted painting called Dona Cecilia (it is common in Latin or Spanish-speaking countries for elderly women to be called Dona as a sign of respect) also became widely circulated on the Internet, often called “Jesus”. Potatoes”.
Cecilia became depressed, especially with the classification of her act of “subversiveness” and the threat of legal action against her. However, she quickly regained her spirits, and realized that her work was “in demand”. Little by little, the irony receded, and in its place was replaced by a kind of appreciation.
Today, the painting “restored” by Donna Cecilia is a big hit, with many popular souvenirs featuring the painting, such as key chains, shirts and fridge magnets. In fact, her painting inspired an opera written by American Andrew Flack in 2015.
Now, ten years after the story of the Aichi Omo, Borja, which has grown into a city, celebrates that story, which has become a thing of the past, without any regret or embarrassment.
Donna Cecilia, now 91, is currently in a nursing home.
“Her health has deteriorated, but she is still conscious and aware of the phenomenon” that caused her, Eduardo Arella Pablo, the mayor of Borja, told the BBC.
Pablo also announced that the city would hold a gala to honor Dona Cecilia and Martinez on September 10.
In the end, the old lady helped make Borja a fame that went beyond the borders of Spain and reached the world.
This city is located in the province of Zaragoza in the northeastern region of Aragon, about 300 kilometers from the capital, Madrid, and the event, which was initially unfortunate and ridiculous, turned out to be in the interest of the city later.
“In terms of tourism, we have become a global destination, and we receive visitors from 110 countries,” the mayor added.
A tourist attraction and a “cultural phenomenon”
Only during the first year following the “intervention” of Donna Cecilia with the painting of Christ, Borja witnessed an explosion in the number of tourists, and the number of visitors reached 40 thousand people.
“Now, between 10,000 and 11,000 visitors flock to the city a year, to witness in real life what has become famous on the Internet,” Pablo explained.
What does the mayor think of what Donna Cecilia did?
Pablo answers, “As a municipality and an institution, we cannot allow such things to happen. We have a huge heritage of monuments and art, and we are committed to preserving it.”
“But with all due respect to the original painting by Elias Garcia, it is now considered the most important work, having become in the Cecilia Jimenez style.”
The fresco by García Martinez (1858-1934) is a reproduction of another work called “Iche omo” (Latin: “He is the man”), a theme that was popular in European art between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the name indicates To a phrase attributed to Pontius Pilate when he presented Jesus Christ to the people in Jerusalem.
Martinez was a professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Zaragoza. His family used to spend the summer in the Borja area, and this prompted the artist to paint the fresco in the church in 1930.
The prestigious Spanish daily El Pais described the original painting as “of modest artistic value”. She noted that the work was not even included in a pamphlet on important artworks in the Aragonese region.
Did Donna Cecilia make her interference?A work of art?
Natalia Lavigne, a researcher in digital culture, praised what Donna Cecilia had done, saying that she had created “something completely different, and with a far greater impact than the original painting.”
“The image of the painting has entered the world of contemporary visual culture powerfully because it has all the characteristics of a pervasive popular phenomenon: something unprofessional, unprofessional, somewhat messy. Certainly, her (Cecilia) never intended to achieve what actually happened,” said Lavigne. .
According to Lavin, the issue of “reproduction” of “Ichi Omo” or “He is the Man” relates to a contemporary question in art, that “we ask less about what art is, and more about where it lies.”
Lavigne adds, “In the context in which Cecilia carried out the restoration, the work was certainly not art. But it can also be viewed from the chronological scale of the painting’s continuing circulation, and this determines the importance of the work being alive.”
After the tide of ridicule subsided, and during the period of “rehabilitation” of Donna Cecilia and her acceptance both in the city community and internationally, unexpected fans appeared to defend her.
Among the defenders of Dona Cecilia was the Spanish director Alejandro de la Iglesia, also known as Alex de la Iglesia, a director of films such as “The Bar” and “El Dia de la Pestia”, meaning “Day of the Beast”, for which he received the Goya Prize. For Best Director in 1995.
De la Iglesia said in a tweet on Twitter that the painting after Cecilia’s intervention is “a symbol of our way of seeing the world. It means a lot.”
American art critic Ben Davis even considered the work after Cecilia’s “restoration” as one of 100 pieces of art defining the art of the 2000s, calling it “a beloved masterpiece of unintended surrealism”.
Rob Horning, editor of the online magazine “Real Life” interested in Internet technology and culture, wrote that the restored painting “provided an opportunity to ridicule both religious piety and what is considered the prevailing artistic sanctities, at the same time.”
Horning also considered that the increase in the demand for tourists to visit Borja, also reveals an intriguing relationship between the real world and the world of the Internet, and says, “It is as if the wall bearing the painting Aichi Omo after the touches of Donna Cecilia says to the viewer: “It is the Internet “.
“It must feel very strong” in front of the painting, Horning adds.
Donna Cecilia was granted 49 percent of the intellectual property rights to her Aichi Umo images. According to the information received, Cecilia makes regular donations from her share of the proceeds to a fund to support those suffering from the muscular degeneration disease that killed one of her sons.
In 2016, during a party in Borja, the elderly lady announced that she had come to terms with her “interference” with the painting.
“Sometimes, because I watch a lot of work, I tell myself ‘Son, you’re not as ugly as you first seemed’,” Donna Cecilia said.
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