Archives for posts with tag: art restoration


St. Cecilia (pictured at right) was martyred in the 2nd Century A.D. and spent her final moments singing — the reason she’s the patron saint of music. We have to take a moment and say that her namesake Cecilia Gimenez (about whom we’ve written several satiric posts) has given Silver Birch Press a reason to sing — and is a saint in our book.


Since we started running the posts a few days ago, traffic to our blog has quadrupled. People are posting links on Facebook and Twitter, while others are finding the articles through search engines.

Cecilia Gimenez is to the Silver Birch Press blog what Hugh Grant was to the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Who would have thunk? A big shout out to Cecilia Gimenez in Borja, Spain. Gracias, Senora!


Before her art restoration at the Sanctuary of Mercy Church was rudely interrupted by local officials in Borja, Spain, Cecilia Gimenez, 81, intended to repair the neglected 19th century fresco to work off some her Purgatory time. Let’s face it, at Cecilia’s advanced age, she thinks about such things — thinks about them a lot!

Now, Cecilia has found a new way to apply her artistic talents — and do good works that will shave away some time in the fiery furnace. (Note for Non-Catholics: Purgatory is like hell — only temporary.) She has volunteered at a Spanish tattoo parlor (see below), where she has agreed to tattoo images of winged beings onto the assorted and sundry body parts of the unholy unwashed.


Cecilia thought this penance would be akin to the Lord washing the apostles’ feet, but so far it hasn’t worked out that way. To date, she has not felt a sublime union with the divine — but has only experienced an endless barrage of ridiculous requests for unnameable creatures and obscene sayings.

When she offered to draw winged creatures on the tattoo parlor patrons, she thought she would be inking in angels, cherubs, and even an archangel or two. Instead, she’s faced with persnickety customers who expect her to recreate intricate drawings of Pegasus and every last flying demon from the Inferno.

Cecilia has decided to keep the gig until she figures out another way to do penance through good works.



Amateur art restorer Cecilia Gimenez, an octogenarian from Borja, Spain, has struck again — this time attacking a fellow woman and fellow Latin, legendary artist Frida Kahlo.

Since Cecilia did not have an original Kahlo self-portrait within easy access, she did the next best thing — applied her renegade restoration brush to a Nickolas Muray photograph of Kahlo (see below).

Asked why she had defaced the prized photograph, Cecilia responded, “Defaced? I’m just showing Frida Kahlo for what she really was.”

When asked what she meant, Cecilia said, “Don’t get me started! Just Google Frida Kahlo’s views on religion and politics and you can find out for yourself.” Despite repeated prodding, Cecilia refused to say anything more specific.

For the record, Frida Kahlo is beloved around the world for her artistry, courage, creativity, sensitivity, and inspiration. But, to Cecilia Gimenez, Kahlo is just another icon to bring down to size. 



Cecilia Gimenez, 81, still doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about — and has no idea why news outlets around the world are criticizing her handiwork. (The arbiters of taste don’t like the way she restored a 19th century fresco of  Christ on the wall of her church in Borja, Spain.) But she knows her work is excellent — no matter what the elitists say.

After all, didn’t an early critic call Henri Matisse‘s work, “A pot of paint thrown in the face of the public”? Didn’t the art world call Picasso‘s cubist paintings “devilish and insane”? Didn’t they call Dali‘s surrealist works “deranged”? Cecilia feels that these examples — and many more  she won’t bother to cite — prove that the art elite don’t know the real thing when they see it.

But there was one art critic who understood — Clement Greenberg, who said: “All profoundly original art appears ugly at first.” So there!

Despite all the media attention, Cecilia found time to apply her craft to an Andy Warhol masterwork — his portrait of Marilyn Monroe (below). (For the uninitiated, Cecilia Gimenez’s version is on the right.) When asked why she had selected this particular painting for her next effort, Cecilia responded that she’s long been an admirer of the American icon and for years has modeled her hairstyle on the deceased blonde’s locks.



All the Internet chatter about Cecilia Gimenez and her botched restoration of a beloved 19th century fresco of Christ’s face, made me think of a related topic — art forgery. I’ve read that many expert art restorers have sidelines as forgers, and I guess the same skill set does come into play. Readers of Patricia Highsmith‘s Ripley books (I’m a huge fan) will remember that sociopathic killer Tom Ripley ends up partially supporting his lavish lifestyle through an art forgery scheme, which plays a major part in Ripley Under Ground (1970).

I love all the books in the series, but as an art lover found Ripley Under Ground particularly engrossing. Patricia Highsmith is an amazing writer — from the first word, the stories just flow, flow, flow. I’ve tried to read her work slowly and carefully to figure out how she achieves her effects, but always get so caught up in the story and characters that I forget I was trying to analyze her craft.

Another interesting discussion of art forgery occurs in the Orson Welles documentary F Is for Fake (1975), which features Elmyr de Hory recounting his exploits as an art forger. The movie pops up on YouTube from time to time and it’s well worth watching.


Unless you’ve sworn off the news during the past few days, you’re familiar with Cecilia Gimenez, the 81-year-old attempting to shave off a few Purgatory points by doing some good works — in this case, restoring a 19th century fresco of Christ on the wall of her church in Borja, Spain.

For the record (and this is why I’m not showing how she ruined the icon), this blog assiduously avoids discussions of religion or politics — that’s not our territory. But I couldn’t resist commenting on this story — there are so many levels and layers to it.

First, it’s a fine example when your children ask, “What does it mean when someone says ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’?”

Second, it shows the value of getting regular eye checkups. I have to wonder if Cecelia Gimenez has cataracts. Before her cataract operation, my mother could not distinguish yellow from white or brown from purple. She had the front door of her house painted a Barney purple, thinking it was “umber” (true story, and I have the photos to prove it!).

Third, I’m wondering if the other parishioners stopped Cecilia Gimenez before she was finished with her work. (You know how messy works-in-progress can look!)

Finally, I feel this story expresses the importance of art education — and why we need to support funding for the arts (hey, that sounds political).

Cecilia Gimenez refuses to repent for her sins (mortal? venial?) and appears belligerent, arrogant, self-satisfied, defiant, and convinced her work is beautiful. Wait a minute. She sounds like most of the artists I know. Welcome to the club, Cecilia!

Articles about this art restoration debacle have swept the Internet — but my favorite is a piece at called “Octogenarian Restorer Strikes Again.” The brilliantly written article imagines what Cecilia Gimenez could accomplish if allowed to restore some of the world’s art treasures, including Andy Warhol‘s portrait of Elizabeth Taylor  (below), Munch’s “The Scream,” Van Gogh‘s self-portrait, Vermeer‘s “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” and Leonardo‘s “Mona Lisa.”