Having visited the Juan Luna Shrine in Badoc, Ilocos Norte last July seems to have driven us to search for more Lunas. Or rather, to dig deeper into the mind of this great patriot and artist. More than his art, there is that most interesting if not tragic side to this hero’s life.

Juan Luna Shrine in Badoc , Ilocos Norte

The tour guide here should be commended. Not easy to hold the attention of my 2 elves, aged 10 and 13, the whole hour we were here. I particularly liked how he presented Luna to us as the artist while talking of the gold award he won in a Madrid art competition with the masterpiece, “Spoliarium”. A copy hangs in this Shrine while the original adorns the Masters Hall in the National Art Gallery. Or Luna as a romantic with a painting of “Una Bulaquena” where the original painting used to hang in Malacanang Palace till it was transferred to the National Art Gallery.

The Original

The Original

In one trip to the National Art Gallery, the Luna paintings showed how his art has evolved through the years spent in Madrid and Paris. But what caught my attention were some Luna paintings with no attribution. Was it Juan or Manuel who painted these? Jose Rizal once said Manuel , the brother of Juan and Antonio Luna, is the better painter but Manuel chose to study music instead.

That Little Girl Reminds Me of Someone Named Luna

My search brought me to a Lecture Series on Juan Luna at the GSIS where its museum proudly hangs the celebrated GSIS investment in a Luna painting entitled “A Parisian Life”. Michael “Xiao” Chua gave the lecture which allowed us listeners to understand another side of Juan Luna. For the most part of the lecture, Xiao dwelled on the life and tragedy of this great artist. It is up to us viewers to relate these trivia to how his art has evolved. I am no art connoisseur but it is not difficult to differentiate the masterful but intense strokes exhibited in the “Spolarium” versus the softer, milder, even playful art gleaned from “A Parisian Life” .

The Parisien Life at the GSIS Museum. But not for long. Who is buying?

The Wife Paz......Tragically Shot by Juan Luna

Xiao disclosed that the painting Parisian Life is up for sale. So, who is buying? It will be recalled that the sale and purchase of this artwork was so enmeshed in controversy in recent past. It has certainly gone a long way from the Bahay Nakpil-Bautista in Quiapo to the Hongkong auction house to GSIS Museum. In whose walls would it hang next? Xiao laments the possibility of having this painting stashed away in some foreign land. Much like the Battle of Lepanto, another masterpiece of Juan Luna, which has been hanging in the Senate walls in Madrid, Spain. So with the “Death of Cleopatra” which is on display at the prestigious Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain. Anyone care to shell out a hefty sum to keep this national treasure here at home where it belongs?

Battle of Lepanto @ Madrid, Spain.