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Fans of botched restoration launch web petition

Admirers of the "world's worst painting restoration" have launched an online petition to save it. Octogenarian Cecilia Gimenez had intended simply to touch up the depiction of Christ, with controversial results.

This combination of two undated handout photos made available by the Centro de estudios Borjanos shows the 20th century Ecce Homo-style fresco of Christ before (left) and after (right) an elderly amateur artist Celia Gimenez, 80, took it upon herself to restore it in the church of the northern Spanish agricultural town of Borja. The incident made national news and was an Internet trending topic Thursday Aug 23 2012 with some Twitter users dubbing it ?Ecce Mono?, meaning ?Behold the Monkey? instead of ?Behold Man.? (Foto:Centro de estudios Borjanos/AP/dapd)

Centro de estudios Borjanos

The now-infamous "restoration" had won over enough fans on Thursday to garner more than 6,000 signatures calling for it to be preserved in its new form.

Gimenez, described as being in her 80s, has garnered global attention with her amateur effort to restore a much loved mural painting of Jesus crowned with thorns.

Titled "Ecce Homo" (Behold the Man), the original work was painted onto a column of the Santuario de Misericordia church, in the northeastern town of Borja, in 1910.

The piece, based on a series of standard depictions of Christ throughout the ages, was completed in oils by local man Elias Garcia Martinez but was showing bare patches as humidity in the church took its toll.

However, Gimenez's attempts at restoration left something to be desired as far as fans of the original were concerned. The facial features in her effort have been described as more akin to a monkey's than those of Christianity's Messiah.

epa03115284 A handout image provided on 21 February 2012 by the auction house Sotheby's of a 1895 pastel on board of Edvard Munch 'The Scream' that will go on sale at Sotheby's New York impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on 02 May 2012. ATTENTION: Copyright in this image shall remain vested in Sotheby's. Please note that this image may depict subject matter which is itself protected by separate copyright. Sotheby's makes no representations as to whether the underlying subject matter is subject to its own copyright, or as to who might hold such copyright. It is the borrower's responsibility to obtain any relevant permissions from the holder(s) of any applicable copyright and Sotheby's supplies this image expressly subject to this responsibility. Note that the image is provided for a one-time use only and no permission is granted to alter this image in any way. EPA/HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES/NO ARCHIVES

The work has been likened to that of artists including Munch

The amateur artist, who claims to have had her own exhibition, said she had been patching up the painting for years and that she had the blessing of the local priest.

"She just wanted to give it a bit of color," Gimenez's sister, Esperanza Gimenez Zueco, told daily newspaper El Mundo.

Divide in artistic opinion

However, the original artist's granddaughter, Teresa Garcia, was unimpressed. "Until now the only thing she had touched was the tunic (on the painting)," Garcia told Spanish public television broadcaster TVE. "The problem is that now she has meddled with the head and, clearly, she has destroyed the painting."

Despite its detractors, the flawed restoration has earned praise and the petition calls for the town to cancel its plans for the original to be restored.

Perhaps with some sense of irony, the online petition claims the restoration signifies "an intelligent reflection on the political and social situation of our time," and that it "reveals a subtle criticism of the Church's creationist theories."

"The result of this intervention intelligently combines the primitive expressionism of Francisco de Goya with figures like Ensor, Munch, Modigliani or the Die Brücke group… of German expressionism," the petition reads.

rc / msh (AFP, dpa)