After being neglected and ignored for over 200 years, a painting that hangs in the Mission San Juan Capistrano has been, finally, uncovered and an attempt at restoration will begin. The painting was originally painted in 1800 by Spanish artist Juan Zervas and is entitled The Crucifixion. It stands twelve feet tall and is six and a half feet wide.
In the early 1970’s, the Catholic Christian priest Father Vincent Russell oversaw the mission and decided that he was going to restore a series of twelve paintings in the mission’s possession. The paintings were all a reasonably standard size and were depictions of Jesus’ final walk to his death on the cross. He enlisted William Maldonado, a self taught painter of some gifts who also played the organ at Sunday services.
Because the gigantic 200 year old painting was so torn and faded and nearly invisible, the priest and the painter thought it best just to paint a reproduction over what remained of the original. And so they did and all of the paintings hung in peace for nearly forty years. Maldonado painted away for nearly a year in a secluded warehouse.
Recently, however, part of the mission, the Serra Chapel, where the paintings hang, was getting some much needed restoration itself. It was additionally decided that all twelve paintings would get a thorough and professional cleaning and restoration. When the giant twelve-footer was examined, it was noticed that some of it protruded from the frame. It would take $18,000 to pay someone to find out why.
A generous donor tossed in the eighteen grand and the nine nails in the frame were removed to unveil the 213 year old creation. It has been decided that the original will be restored and it may take years to do so but many feel it is part of the mission’s history and the attempt should be made. Maldonado’s replica will hang in another part of the mission.