Remember Ecce Homo, the best meme of 2012? You are not alone. According to a New York Times report, the botched painting restoration seen 'round the world has worked out quite well for Borja, the small Spanish town that houses it.
The Times traveled to Borja to see how the simian image of Christ—lovingly restored from a nearly 100-year-old fresco by an 83-year-old amateur—has impacted tourism in the northeastern Spanish village, and while hard dollar figures are scant, the consensus seems to be that "Beast Jesus" was a good thing:
Since the makeover, the image has attracted more than 150,000 tourists from around the world — Japan, Brazil, the United States — to the gothic 16th century Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mercy on a mountain overlooking Borja.
Visitors pay one euro, or about $1.25, to study the fresco, encased on a flaking wall behind a clear, bolted cover worthy of the Louvre's Mona Lisa.
In the two years since Cecilia Giménez turned the face of Jesus into a fuzzy whirlpool with eyes, Ecce Homo has become a cottage industry. The painting's earless face adorns lottery tickets. Two different local wineries have vied for the right to place it on their labels. Museum visits are up. According to the mayor, while other industries flagged thanks to the financial crisis, tourism remained steady thanks to Homo. Giménez herself, lest we forget, made a pretty penny on the fresco fiasco.
The only people who aren't happy with the fate of Ecce Homo, it seems, are the grandchildren of Elías Garcia Martínez, the artist behind the original painting. They retain no legal right to the image, the mayor told the Times but sent a letter asking for it to be completely erased nonetheless. Giménez's restoration, they claimed, "damages the honor of the family."
[Image via AP]