Friday, 24 August 2012

Life Imitates Life Imitating Art

In "Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie", our hero ruins the famous painting "Whistler's Mother" in classic style, then "restores" it.

The original Whistler's Mother painting 
(officially called "Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1", by the way)

Mr. Bean's restored version
(It does have a certain charm denied to the original)

One could be forgiven for having a good laugh in the theatres and sobering up when leaving, convinced that such things happen only in the movies. But fortunately, real life has a pretty good comic director too.

A devout, church-going Spanish octogenarian has made up for a misspent life of ordinariness and boring good deeds to leave her mark on this world before it was too late.

She took it upon herself to restore a century-old fresco of Jesus on the wall of her local church and probably did one better than Mr Bean.

Left: The original fresco (known as Ecce Homo - "Behold the Man")
Right: The restored version by Cecilia Gimenez (now christened Ecce Mono - "Behold the Monkey")

This may not quite be the start of a new school of art on the scale of Impressionism, but it has not failed to gather its own devoted followers.

This improved version of The Last Supper provides the unfathomable sense of foreboding that was sadly lacking in the original.

This was the enigmatic expression that da Vinci tried, unsuccessfully, to capture. The "Mono Lisa" will keep us guessing for centuries to come.

An art historian has reportedly said that Ms. Gimenez's painting is "completely modern and reflecting in (sic) a simple and naive popular mysticism". Uh, whatever that means.

All this and more, written up by a journalist mercifully blessed with a sense of the ridiculous. 

We should remember that Mr. Bean not only covered up his "restoration" with a fake, he actually made a speech at the museum, to great applause:

I'm Dr. Bean, apparently, and my job is to sit and look at paintings (applause). So, what have I learnt that I can say about this painting? Well, firstly, it's quite...big, which is excellent, because if it was really small, you know, microscopic, then hardly anybody would be able to see it, which would be a tremendous shame. Secondly, and I'm quite near the end now, of this ...analysis of this painting [...] This picture is worth such a lot of money because it's a picture of Whistler's mother, and as I've learnt by staying with my best friend David Langley and his family, families are very important. And even though Mr. Whistler was perfectly aware that his mother was a hideous old bat who looked like she had a cactus lobbed up her backside, he stuck with her, and even took the time to paint this amazing picture of her. It's not just a painting. It's a picture of a mad old cow who he thought the world of. And that's marvelous. ...well, that's what I think (wild applause).

In our real life story too, the old lady in question seems absolutely unaware of the magnitude of her er..contribution to the world, and one can't help coming away from watching her interview with the impression that what she did was perfectly OK. Actually, it's more than just OK, it's cosmic OK. "Truth is stranger than fiction." "Life imitates Art." We're running out of clich├ęs here.

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