Ecce Homo

Most are already familiar with the story and image of Celia Gimenez's renovation efforts of the "Ecce Homo" (Behold the Man) image on the wall of the Iglesia del Santuario de Misericodia. This 20th century painting had been badly damaged over time and had chipped off nearly a quarter of the artwork. 80 year old Celia attempted to retouch the fresco and the result has become an international embarrassment. The image has been appearing everywhere across the internet and has inspired many memes.  

While it is an unfortunate fate of an amazing and historic work of art there is also something in this that I find familiar and even beautiful. Her attempt to recreate this image resulted in a horrible dis-figuration of the original. I cannot help but think to myself how often we do just this with the image of Jesus. We try, often with the best of intentions, to recreate his image in this world only to produce something hideous. Our attempts often fall short of even resembling a healthy human let alone the man who demonstrated all that man was created to be. We try to fill in the blanks of the vague and somewhat incomplete vision we have of that image of the invisible God only to find that we have distorted even what little understanding and clarity we did have. This image is beautiful to me because of how truly it reflects all of our defacing of Jesus.  To me, it stands as an icon of our shortcomings and religious failures.
Her retouching of this painting did not make Jesus image more visible but it did remind me that his image is not captured in paintings as much as it is in His ability to love and forgive those of us who make such mistakes. Jesus loves Celia as well as the rest of us who fail so miserably at reproducing his image in this world. This painting is beautiful to me because I believe it is to God as well. I have a friend who always hangs terrible drawings on his fridge because his child scribbled them. They are horrible scribbles and resemble nothing but he is proud to display this evidence of his child's effort and development. In a similar was I can imagine this "Ecce Homo" hanging on the fridge in the Kingdom of God. 


  1. That's funny, all I could think of was how after Christ died, He left us the Holy Spirit and now we are the body, we are the face here, broken images of the only man who lived to be perfect, I felt myself looking into the face of that 80 year old woman. When I think of art, I hate the world's standards on it "this is not art," "this is garbage," "this is ugly," the list goes on... but really what defines art? What makes the child's sketch so precious, and one of a kind is that it is not only in development, it is also full of uninhibited passion, love and creation (limited only by the flesh of course). That being said, I believe that no matter what "skill level" one may have, no matter how "artistic" or "talented one is, and no matter how many people will call ones creation "garbage," "not art" it is still art. If it does what it is meant to do, give glory to the creator of the universe, bring about worship of the God almighty, and that is what true beauty is, not what the world has labeled as skilled or impressive.


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