10 Years of Dona Cecilia Giménez's 'Ecce Homo': From Disaster to Mem That Changed the City

10 Years of Dona Cecilia Giménez’s ‘Ecce Homo’: From Disaster to Mem That Changed the City

“With all due respect to Elias Garcia’s original painting, the most important work is now identified in the Cecilia Jimenez style,” the mayor of Borja News told BBC Brasil, a city where the disastrous restoration has become one of the biggest memes in internet history.

An unspeakable event.

Thus began a post on August 7, 2012 from the blog dedicated to the culture of the small Spanish town of Borja, with a population of only 5,000.

The publication explained that an inventory of religious art in the area found poor preservation of the frescoes. Ace Homopainted by painter Elias García Martinez on the walls of the Temple of Mercy in Borja.

“But, to our surprise, we can see that in the narrow space that has since passed, an ‘interference’ occurred that resulted in what is shown in this image.”

“We are unaware of the circumstances in which this happened [a intervenção] takes place.”

It didn’t take long for it to be revealed.

A parish of the Borja Reserve named Cecilia Jimenez, 81 at the time, was identified as the author of the clumsy intervention. Armed with “goodwill”, she tried to solve the problems of preserving the drawing even without mastering the necessary techniques.

The rest is history: a tsunami of ridicule swept social media, fueling news, comedy shows and conversation circles around the world in the following weeks and resonating so powerfully that Donna Cecilia’s work turned into one of the biggest memes ever. Created online.

Faced with the sudden interest of the new public in the local sacred art, the priest of the sanctuary asked the mayor to cover the painting thus avoiding the jokes. reques has been rejected.

The elderly woman was threatened with legal action over what was classed as an “act of vandalism”, and she fell into depression. cried several days.

However, she soon regained her spirits. He realized that his work was “turning around”: little by little, satire gave way to appreciation, often sarcastic, in a phenomenon typical of web culture.

In a short time, the picture became a series of promotional products, such as key chains, T-shirts, fridge magnets, and even an opera by American Andrew Flack in 2015.

Ten years later, Borja celebrates without any embarrassment Ace Homo She was transformed by the Spanish woman, who now lives in a nursing home, in poor health at the age of 91.

“Her condition has worsened a lot, but she is still aware of the phenomenon and lives here in Borja in a residence run by the Aragonese government. She is with her son who also has a serious health problem,” the current newspaper said. The mayor of the Spanish municipality, Eduardo Arella Pablo, to BBC News Brazil.

Jose Antonio has a brain injury and lives in a wheelchair. Dona Cecilia’s other son, Jesúsin, died at the age of 20 from a rare muscle disease.

She said in a recent interview with Aragon Public Television that if she could, “I’d go back to try and fix Ecce Homo.” To a newspaper in the Basque Country, another Spanish region, he said he always loved painting and had good memories of restoration because he “did it with love.”

The mayor of Borja said that on September 10 there will be a “ceremony in honor of Cecilia Jimenez and Elias García Martinez” that will be broadcast live on YouTube.

It is also an acknowledgment of the great impact that has been made in this small city located 60 kilometers from Zaragoza and part of the Spanish Autonomous Region of Aragon.

“Touristically, we are a global product,” says Arella. “We receive visitors from 110 countries around the world.”

In the first year after the appearance of the case, there was an explosion in the number of tourists, with the Borja having 40,000 visitors.

“It’s settled now,” says Arella. “But we’re working so that this chain never breaks down in the city’s hotels.” Now, the flow is between 10,000 and 11,000 visitors a year who witness what has become popular online.

But what does the mayor think of what Donna Cecilia did?

“As an institution, we can’t allow these things to happen. We have a huge, artistic heritage and we are committed to taking it back. What happened was wrong. But it’s also true that once it happened, this is a pop phenomenon.”, the pop icon,” he says.

“With all due respect to the original painting by Elias Garcia, the most important work is now identified in the manner of Cecilia Jimenez.”

Origin: “Rare Artistic Value”

The mural by García Martinez (1858-1934) is a reproduction of another Ace Homo (“Here’s the man”, in Latin) from the past. It is a common theme in European art between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, whose title alludes to Pontius Pilate’s phrase when he presented a tormented Jesus Christ to an audience.

García Martinez was a professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Zaragoza and also patriarch of a family of artists from which his son Honorio García Condoy, an avant-garde sculptor, emerged.

The family used to spend summers in the Borja area, which is what led García Martinez to produce a mural inside the sanctuary in 1930.

The prestigious Spanish newspaper El Pais described the original painting as “of little artistic value”. The work is not indexed by Aragonese Cultural Bodies.

After all, did Cecilia make art?

“Cecilia Jimenez created something completely different, with a much greater impact than the original painting, which will not be forgotten because it has not been remembered before,” says Natalia Lavigne, curator and researcher in digital culture.

“But everything there is context, the meme is context. The image permeated contemporary visual culture because it had all the characteristics of a meme: something casual, amateurish and a bit of a mess. It was never her intention to do what happened.”

condition Ace Homo Again, according to Lavigne, it relates to a contemporary question: Now we ask less that Art and more where is he art.

“In the context in which she did the restoration, it was certainly not art. But it can be seen in this way, contemplating the idea of ​​extending the life of the circulation of images, which would determine the significance of the life of the object.”

During the “rehabilitation” of Donna Cecilia, unexpected visions appeared. Spanish director Álex de la Iglesia, director of films such as bar And the monster dayon Twitter that the photo “is a symbol of our way of seeing the world. It means a lot.”

American art critic Ben Davis even called the restoration among the 100 pieces that defined the 2010s (“a beloved masterpiece of unintentional surrealism”).

For Rob Horning, editor of the online magazine on internet technology and real-life culture, the meme actually “gave an opportunity to simultaneously taunt the piety of religion and the pseudo-religion of art”.

The disastrous result also “gave the spectators a sense of superiority”, something like this Look what this brave lady had to do.

Horning points out that the success of tourist visits to Borja also shows a strange connection between the offline world and the online world: it is as if the wall on which it is Ace Homo Donna Cecilia tells the viewer: “Here’s the Internet.”

“The sensation has to be very strong,” Horning says.

Donna Cecilia’s 2012 meme has a few tracks that would go viral over the years. The case suggested, for example, that the consequences for someone who spreads quickly, even in the context of ridicule, might not be very serious—and could even “make money” from a significant impact.

Cecilia holds 49% of her image rights Ace HomoShe invests in a fund to support patients with the same illness as her son.

But the main lesson of the meme, says the journalist, is that the Internet “takes advantage of and reverses phenomena.” The meme, at the end, “turned around.”

Even Donna Cecilia seems more convinced of her work. In 2016, during the opening ceremony of the Interpretation Center for his work in Borja, he declared: “Sometimes, seeing you so often, I think ‘My son, you are no longer as ugly as you seemed to me at the beginning.

– This text was originally published at https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/internacional-62500921

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