Image via Wikimedia Commons

Even those outside of the art world are likely to have come across the hilariously “restored” artwork-turned-meme that is the Ecce Homo painting in the small Spanish town of Borja. Thanks to its notorious repair work in 2012, shown below, visitors around the world are flocking to the otherwise obscure destination.

The 1930 fresco piece by Spanish painter Elías García Martínez depicts Jesus Christ with a crown of thorns, and is located in the Sanctuary of Mercy church. Having flaked off from the moisture on the establishment’s walls, the artwork was altered by untrained elderly parishioner Doña Cecilia Giménez in 2012.

Midway into her restoration project, Martínez went out of town for a trip. The incomplete restoration project propelled the painting to global fame, and the piece was retitled by meme-loving internet users as, ‘Potato Jesus’ or ‘Ecce Mono’ (Monkey Christ).

A recent report by The Guardian pinpoints the viral painting as what’s responsible for Borja’s reliable tourism business. The small town now welcomes 16,000 vacationers per year, 400-percent the number of visitors it received prior to the botched job.

Aside from the standalone painting, the humorous “facelift” fronts mugs, T-shirts, key-chains, teddy bears, bottles, bookmarks, and more.

The revenue accumulated from Borja’s tourism trade now helps to fund the town’s elderly home, as well as retain the employments of the two caretakers of the Sanctuary of Mercy church.

Previously, locals blamed the painting’s restorer—who was 81 years old then—for prying into the condition of the artwork. However, it seems that they have now changed their tune.

“It was a media phenomenon, but it’s also been a social phenomenon when it comes to helping people,” the town’s mayor, Eduardo Arilla proclaimed. “If it hadn’t happened, maybe Borja would have become famous for something else, like its wine. But we wouldn’t be as well-known as we are now.”

[via The Guardian, images via various sources]

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