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Restoration

18th Century Altarpiece Restoration & Conservation

The second stage of the project took the Community Workshop inside the church itself, in order to restore the 12 eighteenth-century altarpieces, the majority of were in a deplorable state of disrepair.

As of now, we have restored five altarpieces, thanks to support from: Fundación Alfredo Harp Helú Oaxaca, Fundación Rockefeller, Conaculta's Programa Foremoba, Germaine Gómez Haro and Pedro Armendariz, Rosa and Gilberto Sandretto, as well from 70 contemporary artists who have donated their work to our Contemporary Artistic Intervention program in coordination with La Curtiduría.

This is the core of our project: to be able to continue the work started by Maestro Rodolfo Morales: the restoration of both the church's structure and its details. The workshop's members are motivated by what they learn, which gives them a new perspective on their lives. Their work is a fundamental part of rescuing their community's historical and cultural heritage.

 

Restored Altarpieces

 

1. Virgen del Carmen Altarpiece

Located on the south wall of the church's nave.

Work began June 2004, completed May 2006

This was the first altarpiece restored, which was in a very bad structural state. The wood had been attacked by termites and the piece was host to rodents' nests.

Restoration Coordinator: Georgina Saldaña Wonchee
Financial assistance provided by: Fundación Alfredo Harp Helú
 

2. Virgen de Guadalupe Altarpiece

Located on the south wall of the church's nave.

Work began June 2006, completed August 2007

Various parts of the elaborate carving had been damaged: cherubs, pendants, cornices, etc. The pictorial work of the principal niche is signed by Miguel Cabrera, an unvarnished piece that had never been restored before.

Restoration Coordinator: Georgina Saldaña Wonchee
Financial assistance provided by: Fundaciones Rockefeller y Alfredo Harp Helú

 

3. Dulce Nombre Jesús Altarpiece

Located on the north wall of the church's nave.

Work began September 2007, completed May 2008

The entire structure, especially the central niche, had deteriorated, the pictorial works had various cracks and the fabric had been compromised. The sculpture featured in the central niche has not yet been restored: the town had previously agreed to contribute to the cost of this work, and we are waiting for this agreement to be honored before work continues on this restoration.

Restoration Coordinator: Georgina Saldaña Wonchee
Financial assistance provided by: Fundación Alfredo Harp Helú
 

4. La Crucifixión Altarpiece

Located in the corner where the west wall of the church's nave meets the east wall.

Work began June 2008, completed June 2010

This piece was found disassembled in the church's storage space, with severe structural damage and had apparently collapsed several times. Various parts of the piece were missing, possibly lost when it was disassembled and stored. Various previous attempts at restoration had been made.

Restoration Coordinator: Georgina Saldaña Wonchee
Financial assistance provided by: Fundación Alfredo Harp Helú and 50 Contemporary Artists

 
Virgen Dolorosa Altarpiece

5. Virgen Dolorosa Altarpiece

Located in the south wall of the church's nave

Work began April 2012, completed November 2012

This piece had structural issues, including termite infestation, cracks, and various issues with the woodwork, such as its gold leaf. The piece included two sculptures, and a pictorial work. The restoration included the repositioning of one of the misaligned sculptures.

Restoration Coordinator: Luis Huidobro
Financial assistance provided by: Fundación Alfredo Harp Helú and CONACULTA as part of their FOREMOBA program



Historical Information

With the exception of the Dulce Nombre Jesús altarpiece, which has Estipite columns, the others are Solomonic Baroque altarpieces from the 18th century. They were placed on the niches of the Dominican church's nave, and their origin is unknown. Some of the pictorial works are signed "Cabrera" and "Pascual F. Perez". These altarpieces do not match the architecture of the church's interior, whose murals and niches date from the 17th century.

A brief description of the stages of a restoration

A survey is done of each altarpiece, complete with blueprints, photographs and an iconographic study. The first three altarpieces were disassembled and restored piece by piece: the structural deterioration was such that the pieces could not have been safely restored in situ. Once the entire altarpiece had been moved to our workshop, a coat of gold leaf was applied where required. Simultaneously, pictorial works were restored on easels. Finally, the altarpiece was re-assembled, first at ground level, to test the assembly, and then in its original position in the church's nave. In the case of La Crucifixión altarpiece, which had already been disassembled, we were able to restore it to its original position with the help of an historical photograph, provided to us by community authorities.