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.
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.
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)