Pop Culture

Botched fresco T-shirt, anyone? Art disaster gets merch deal

When Spanish woman Cecilia Gimenez, 81, botched a restoration attempt of a fresco of Christ at her local church last year, it spawned Internet memes and worldwide ridicule.

It also turned out to be a lucrative mistake.

The fresco has since become a tourist attraction in the small Spanish town of Borja, raising more than 50,000 euros ($66,285) for a local charity, according to a report by The Associated Press. In addition to visitors paying one euro ($1.30) to see the fresco, Gimenez and a local council are expected to sign a deal to put the image on plates, postcards, cigarette lighters and more merchandise. Gimenez will get 49 percent of the proceeds with the rest going to the local council, official Juan Maria Ojeda told the AP.

The fresco, known as “Ecce Homo,” or Behold the Man, was an obscure piece of art in the Misericordia sanctuary since its creation in 1930 before Gimenez made it a sensation last year. With the fresco flaking, Gimenez decided to restore it by painting over it, with questionable results that some called “Behold the Monkey.” The original image, of Christ in a crown of thorns, became unrecognizable under layers of red and brown paint.

“Everyone who came into the church could see me as I was painting,’’ she told reporters in August 2012. “I didn't do anything secretly. The priest knew. How could I do something like this without permission?"

The altered image became wildly popular and began to pop up on unauthorized T-shirts and other merchandise, prompting the local council to copyright it. Gimenez also held an exhibit of her own art and expressed relief that the controversy turned positive in the end.

“Now it seems like everyone's happy," she told Spanish paper Heraldo de Aragon. "I'm grateful that things have quieted down."