Spanish fresco restorer has last laugh

A year ago Cecilia Gimenez's botched attempt to restore a fresco of Christ inspired ridicule and references to monkeys. Now the 81-year-old Spanish artist is having the last laugh. The disfigured fresco has drawn more than 40,000 visitors and raised more than $72,500 for a local charity in the town of Borja since gaining worldwide attention, reports AP in The Sydney Morning Herald.

It has spurred the town to put the likeness on merchandise it hopes will sell for years to come. And Gimenez has even had her own art exhibit, with two dozen of her other works showing until August 24 in the town of 5000 people.

Gimenez and a local council are to sign a deal next week to share profits from merchandise featuring the image, with the artist getting 49 per cent and the council the rest, said councillor Juan Maria Ojeda, who listed the tourism and income figures.

The turnaround is apparently quite a relief for the Spanish retiree, who was overwhelmed by the attention a year ago. "Now it seems like everyone's happy," local paper Heraldo de Aragon quoted the once media-shy Gimenez as saying in Sunday's edition. "I'm grateful that things have quieted down."

That was until Gimenez, a longtime devotee of the work, decided it needed some attention because it was flaking due to the damp church air. The attempt didn't go so well and some dubbed her retouching of it Ecce Mono – Behold the Monkey.

But soon the retouched version grew popular. The image started appearing without authorisation on everything from T-shirts to mobile phone covers, coffee mugs and wine labels. People arrived in Borja asking to see the painting.

FULL STORY Restored Spanish fresco brings mucho euro (SMH)

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