Mission

SERRA CHAPEL CONSERVATION PROJECT

Stations of the Cross

The Conservation of the Stations of the Cross

The project to preserve the Serra Chapel includes the conservation of fourteen paintings depicting the Stations of the Cross. Thirteen of these paintings date from the eighteenth century. The exception is Station XII, a large, twentieth-century painting that appears to be a reproduction of an eighteenth-century Spanish Colonial painting by the artist, Jose Francisco Zervas.

Stations of the Cross

The Stations of the Cross are spaced along the east and west walls of the Serra Chapel.


Stations of the Cross Station IV was the first painting to undergo conservation treatment because it was in danger of falling from the wall. The molded plaster frame, most likely cast in the 1920s, was not secure and in danger of breaking apart. Note the pronounced convex distortion at the top edge of the frame, seen here in situ, before the painting was taken down. Additionally, the painting had detached from some of the linen tabs that were keeping it in place. (The painting was held in the frame with wax-infused linen tabs.)  

 Station of the Cross IV: Jesus Meets His Mother

 

Stations of the Cross

View of Station IV after conservation treatment. The painting underwent the following, among other treatments: removing surface grime by dry cleaning with vulcanized rubber sponges; removing discolored varnish using organic solvent mixtures; removing overpaint and old overfill mechanically and with organic solvents; applying an isolating layer by brush; filling in and inpainting losses and disfigurements; applying a final layer of varnish; and documenting the conservation work.


Stations of the Cross

The paintings will be re-framed, given the unstable condition of the existing frames, which are not original to the painting. Nonetheless, these frames do have historic value and will be preserved in the new museum storage facility. Here, one among several samples under consideration.


Stations of the Cross

Photographs taken of the Serra Chapel in the 1800s show the paintings with simple wood frames adorned with plain, dark wood crosses centered on the top edge. The existing frames, plaster castings of a traditional Spanish Colonial frame, were probably created for the paintings in the 1920s, as part of a comprehensive restoration campaign under the guidance of Father St. John O’Sullivan. Unfortunately, the original frames have not survived.


Stations of the Cross

Aneta Zebala Paintings Conservation is conserving Station V.

Station of the Cross V: Simon of Cyrene Carries the Cross  

Stations of the Cross

Unlike Station V, which was held in place with wax-infused linen tabs, Station VI was encased in its frame with a plywood backing board sealed with epoxy. In certain areas, the epoxy was one-inch thick.


Stations of the Cross

Chemical dissolution of the epoxy was not an option in removing the painting from its framing, since this action could produce an adverse effect on the oil painting. Instead, the Mission’s conservator removed the epoxy mechanically, with the aid of a Dremel tool.      


Stations of the Cross

Station XII, a twentieth-century acrylic reproduction of an eighteenth-century oil painting. (Please see historic image above to view the eighteenth-century painting.) It appears that this newer twentieth-century version is attached with metal brackets to the front of the older eighteenth-century painting, covering all but an outer once-inch border.       

Station of the Cross XII: Crucifixion  

Stations of the Cross

The conservation campaign for the Serra Chapel will include new interior lighting, which will highlight artwork such as the Stations of the Cross, which are poorly or inappropriately lit.      

 







Donate Online

By mail, download donation form and mail with your gift:

Mission San Juan Capistrano Preservation Funds
26801 Ortega Hwy
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

For questions, please call Barb Beier at (949) 234-1323 or email bbeier@missionsjc.com
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