Tag Archive: Juan Luna

Juan Luna’s obra maestra, the SPOLIARIUM , greets you as soon as you step into the Hall of Masters in the National Art Gallery. I have visited it quite a few times, appreciating how this painting brought and still bring so much pride to us Filipinos.

Browsing through my favorite Facebook pages, I was struck to find this photo of how the obra maestra looked in 1958. The National Museum offers this information and I do not wish to add nor subtract from it:


“Spoliarium (1958): Photo shows the Juan Luna masterpiece “Spoliarium” on display at the lobby of the Department of Foreign Affairs building on Padre Faura St. (now the Department of Justice building) where it was mounted on a wooden frame after it was shipped to the Philippines as a gift by the Franco Government in Spain that year. Unfortunately, because of its size, the painting was sliced into three pieces before it was crated and brought to the country. (The slices in the painting can be seen here) The Spoliarium was later restored by artist Antonio Dumlao before it was unveiled again in 1962. The painting remained at the DFA before it was transferred to the National Museum where it can be seen today.



The Spoliarium was entry by Luna to the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884 in Madrid, where it garnered the first gold medal (out of three). In 1886, it was sold to the Diputación Provincial de Barcelona for 20,000 pesetas. It measures 4.22 meters x 7.675 meters, and considered as the largest painting in the Philippines. (Thank you, Vic Torres, for the photo and the annotation.)”




Sourced from the Net

(Source: National Art Gallery)



It almost breaks your heart to see even just a photo of a visibly “split up” SPOLIARIUM. Thanks to Antonio Dumlao, we are now privileged to view this obra maestra in all its glory. But pray tell, who is ANTONIO DUMLAO?




Spoliarium at the Hall of Masters. National Art Gallery. Manila



More Internet surfing and more heartbreaks which can only be appeased by my sharing these with you.



First off, Antonio Dumlao was an accomplished artist. He was commissioned to give a “facelift” to the Juan Luna obra maestra in 1960 despite the fact that he was never trained in restoration work. In fact, he never had any formal education in the arts. He quit the same year he enrolled to study fine arts in the University of the Philippines. With or without formal education, Dumlao was a gifted artist. He was a muralist, a portrait canvas artist, a sculptor and a stained glass innovator. For many years, he served as Art Director of San Miguel Corporation and developed a friendship with his top art patron, Don Andres Soriano, through whom he met Don Manuel Elizalde, another art patron.




Antonio Dumlao. (Photo sourced from the Net)

(Photo sourced from the Net)



DUMLAO was friends with Fernando Amorsolo, a contemporary, who has great admiration and respect for his work. Ironically, not much is known about DUMLAO. Nor about his deep friendship with his childhood friend from Intramuros days, Vicente Manansala. When Dumlao had a stroke in 1979, his daughter recounted how “Mang Enteng” flew to his father’s bedside. Genuine friends, indeed. Two years after that visit, Manansala had a heart attack and died before Dumlao, who died in 1983.




Ina ng Lahi. Photo sourced from the Net.

(Sourced from the Net: “Ina Ng Lahi”. UP Vargas Museum. Filipiniana Collection.)




Not just a painter or muralist. He works on stained glass too!
Photo Sourced from the Net.

(Sourced from the Net: “Sarimanok” Stained Glass. Far eastern University)



Imagine how this gifted muralist restored Luna’s Spoliarium! Makes me wonder how much of the mural is Luna’s and how much was Dumlao’s. I know, that’s NOT fair to say. Forgive this non-artist, layman’s random thought. One thing’s for sure though. This Luna fan is now officially a Dumlao fan too. His other stained glass works are still in Malacañang and in the Mosque in Quiapo. Now, this requires a visit! Join me?


Three men fascinate me. Jose Rizal. Ernest Hemingway. Juan Luna. I suspect it is the wild side and mystery about each of these men that attracted me to them. 😉Like you admire them one second. And wish to mother them the next sec.







Back home, Juan Luna’s “Spoliarium” in the National Art Gallery is the highlight of any afternoon spent at the Museum. I’m glad this masterpiece was given ample space to view the obra maestro in all its glory. When my family went on a trip to Ilocos, a visit to the Luna Shrine was most definitely the highlight of that family holiday. When I heard there would be a lecture on Luna and his Art at the GSIS Museum, I thought it was a good idea to combine the lecture with a viewing of Parisien Life, that most controversial GSIS acquisition. When I learned Luna’s “Battle of Lepanto” hangs in the Senate Hall in Madrid, I knew I couldn’t leave Madrid without viewing it!




I sent an email to the Madrid Senado’s website if I may be allowed entry. 🇪🇸 There was an exchange of emails between me and Mercedes who was most kind and accommodating. We fixed a date and time, then she put me in a group of visiting Spanish ladies and apologized that the “tour” would be in Spanish. Bueno!





Of course, no photographs were allowed. We were ushered inside a hall with 4 murals of Spanish painters. One 1859 mural almost tempted me to cheat on Mercedes and take a photo with my iPhone. “La Coronacion de D. Manuel Quintana” (who is he?) by Luis Lopez Piqueo, huge at 428 x 561, is slightly bigger than Juan Luna’s Battle of Lepanto (350 x 550) which hangs on one wall along a narrow corridor. Mercedes was kind enough to open the meeting room across Luna’s mural just so I can have a good view of what I came for. She spoke lengthily about Juan Luna and why I’m so interested in seeing it. Unfortunately, she spoke in Spanish while all the distinguished-looking Doña Victorinas were eyeing me with new interest. 😊







Having seen what I came for, Mercedes invited me to stay on to visit the Senate Hall itself where she said I can take photographs. It looked more like a theatre! Then, we were led to the Library which was really, really awesome. There was this man reading old periodicals while we ladies roamed about with oohs and aaahs (a universal language, I soon learned). The lighting was bad if you ask me, but there were reading lamps. I sneaked a photo of the very Spanish-looking gentleman inside the library just as we were led out to visit another hall in the Senado. This time, it’s a more modern hall. On the way out, there were again paintings of contemporary Spanish painters. I saw one of Joan Mìro. And I dare not cheat on Mercedes again as she reminded everyone that photography is not allowed in these areas. Which is fine — I’m happy with my snapshot of the Spanish Señor inside the Library. 😉







As I thanked Mercedes for a lovely one hour tour of the Senado, she handed me books as souvenirs. Now, isn’t that muy bien? Ha sido un placer en Madrid Sendo. Muchas gracias, Mercedes!




Today I’m ready for another Photowalk. Best in the mornings, then brunch, then siesta? It’s amazing how days somehow fall into some kind of routine.



Free hours at the Museum are late afternoons or early evenings anyway. (Cheapskate!) But I can’t wait. When I saw that the Museo de Prado has some Hermitage artworks on exhibit, I immediately bought a ticket so I can have more time to leisurely view the collections. Spent all of 2 hours viewing the Prado collections and another 2 hours for a quick lunch in the Museum Cafeteria and the Hermitage exhibits.






No photographs allowed inside. But I’m happy. Truly, the Prado is Madrid’s pride. The immense hoard of Spanish treasures, along with those of Flemish, Dutch, Italian masters feed the soul. My favorites are Goya’s “The Naked Maja” , Rubens “Adoration of the Magi” and “Three Graces”, El Bosco’s “The Garden of Delights” and Van der Weyden’s “Descent from the Cross”. I also liked Velasquez’ Meninas and Crucified Christ. The Hermitage Collection is an added bonus. I have been to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg back in 2004 and promptly concluded that Catherine the Great is the greatest shopper, collector and hoarder of them all. I’m no art connoisseur but I enjoyed my time at the Museum.






How I wish Juan Luna’s painting of “The Battle of Lepanto” is also hanging here rather than in Madrid’s Senado. I have yet to figure out how to view this masterpiece, but I’m determined not to leave Madrid without seeing it. (I actually did. Check out my blog on it) It also gives one immense pride to see Juan Luna’s “Death of Cleopatra” hanging side by side with Spanish Masters. Unfortunately, the 2nd time I visited the Prado to view this Luna painting once more, it was no longer there. When I checked with the Information Desk, I was informed it was put on storage. 😦







As i walked out of Prado, I turned green with envy of the guests staying in the adjacent Ritz Hotel. Such a lovely edificio! And in the best location too! One day. One day soon. I shook off the envy and instead dropped in on nearby San Jeronimo Church before rounding up the corner to view the Plaza de la Cibeles. One thing I love about Madrid is the many rotundas, gloriettas, museos, plazas, monuments, fountains and gardens they have. This city, both cosmopolitan and “old world” at the same time, makes each day a photowalk day.






I was tempted to walk back to Puerta del Sol from the corner where Banco Espana stood and where I can get a glimpse of Cybele, the Greek fertility goddess, looking smug seated on a chariot pulled by 2 lions. Naaah. Not today. No rush. Today is strictly Museum Day. Prado Day. Thyssen and the rest can wait another day.








Can’t resist including this excerpt from Rizal’s impromptu speech at a dinner in honor of Luna and Hidalgo at the Hotel Ingles:



“Luna and Hidalgo are as much Spanish glories as they are Filipino. Just as they were born in the Philippines, they could have been born in Spain, because genius has no country, genius blossoms everywhere, genius is like the light, the air, it is the heritage of all”

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.

Let me ask……..when was the last time you visited the Museum?


Don’t look at me. It’s something I don’t do on a regular basis. But I would love to spend many afternoons there. And I continue to wish there is a good coffee corner somewhere within the building where I can take a break before pursuing a second run of the Gallery.



The National Art Gallery with the Balangay Diwata ng Lahi



As it turned out, I was good for just a couple of hours. No breaks. Glucose level drops in 2 hours after walking from Hall to Hall , up and down the 3 floors. And then I start longing for a cup of good brew and some munchies. Having said that, let me advise you to go in the morning after a good breakfast! Or in the afternoon after a good lunch 😉



The Museum Of the Filipino People



When I got there, I decided to do the National Art Gallery first. The Museum of the Filipino People is good for a separate visit. “Slow by slow.” 😉 Who says you can rush through a Museum? The best time is always a time when you don’t care about the time. Go slow. Read all those markers. Every piece of art has something to say. Either written or visual or sensed. If you’re like me who hardly picks up an art or history book, this maybe a fine time to brush up on art and history. You just have to trust that the most relevant information are encapsulated in all those reading materials and markers.



Juan Luna

Felix Ressureccion Hidalgo’s “Assassination of Governor Bustamante”



You may want to start with the Hall of Masters. Be prepared to be blown away. Juan Luna’s “Spoliarium” has that effect on most people. On the other hand, Hidalgo’s “Assassination of Governor Bustamante” reveals a violent side of Spanish friars of that period. See it to know what I mean. Sly. Sly.



There are special halls showcasing the Museum collections of Juan Luna, Hidalgo, Amorsolo, Botong Francisco, Napoleon Abueva, etc. I cannot write about all of them, and would have to limit myself to a few favorites. After all, the “selection” is a very personal decision. No pretensions here. In my book, art assumes significance when these treasured pieces “talk” to me. Or “touch” me. I may misinterpret its message, or completely misunderstand it. But why and how the message was conveyed to me is entirely my own perception. Or sensation? This may sound like it takes too much away from the artist himself. But I dare say that the artists’ messages affect people in different ways. Happy, sad, empty, peaceful, anxious, relaxing, refreshing, uplifting…… we feel as we feel.



How lucky were those who posed for Amorsolo! They have been immortalized by this National Artist’s magical hands. Truly, a “Pamana” or inheritance. Amorsolo’s legacy lives through these masterpieces. Thank God for this prolific painter, our very first National Artist. From Philippine landscapes to traditional Filipino practices and everyday life , to these portraits, one is transported back in time as one takes in all those details of his artful strokes. For sure, his uncle Fabian de la Rosa, another great Filipino artist, must be so proud having mentored Amorsolo in his younger days when he and his family (Amorsolo’s mom is De La Rosa’s cousin) lived with them after Amorsolo’s father died.






First off, I was very very happy to find the Museum Foundation Hall where one views Botong Francisco’s murals which were ‘rescued’ by the Foundation from Philippine General Hospital (PGH) where they were earlier housed. The murals represent the progress of medicine in our country, so it was fitting to have them in PGH. Over time, these art pieces hardly invited attention, much less admiration and respect, as PGH visitors had other mundane things in mind. Cleaned up, restored to its former glory, and accorded its due respect in a Hall focusing on the greatness of this National Artist is an answered prayer. Aaaaah. Those wooden benches looking like “hagabis” (were they? ) let one rest and simply take in all the beauty of the masterpieces.





Vessels of Faith. That’s what it says. Honestly? I don’t know one bit about this exhibit. So, I devoured all “lessons” to be learned right in this Hall. Remember what I told you? The good guys who made this exhibit possible would have read up on these art pieces, and like “Twitter” are constrained to write down/display all that information in as few words as possible. This is history “shortcut”, if I may call it that. And it is just what I need. Right then and there, I did my “cramming” as if I would have to pass an exam as I exit from the National Art Gallery.





So, how much do we know of the Tau-Tao? A quick reading gives ample background on this Bagobo myth on afterlife. The myth is complete with all those colorful characters which reminded me of those Ramayana tales and Panday movies. Imagine Lumabat’s journey from earth, crossing the horizon to reach the skyworld. Meeting and vanquishing a snake with sharp teeth and a mouth that opens wide and shut to cut one person half, chasing a deer 9 times around the world, belly-opening procedures to take out one’s intestines to free Lumabat of his earthly desires (hunger)! Oh, this is part of our history — all those pre-Hispanic beliefs and myths comprising the Filipino spirituality!






I lament that I did not take my history lessons seriously. How I wish we had the equivalent of an Ambeth Ocampo (myIdol) in my student years! Now I cram. And it takes more than a few visits to really appreciate our heritage housed in the National Arts Gallery. So much. Too much. So I have decided on my “slow by slow” mode as my memory bank is not as efficient as it used to be. A few exhibits at a time. A few artists at a time. And once more, how I wish there is a Coffee Shop within the Museum! Caffeine-starved, my memory bank screams “full”. No storage space.



Talk to you later, guys!

How much do we know of the Luna brothers? Honestly? I simply know one is a painter, the other a General. Both are patriots. And both are friends and contemporaries of Dr. Jose P. Rizal. Many of us would think that knowledge is enough. Toinks!

Juan Luna Shrine in Badoc, Ilocos Norte

On our way from Laoag to Vigan, we passed Badoc, Ilocos Norte. This is the last town of Ilocos Norte. And this is the birthplace of the Luna brothers. The Juan Luna Shrine can be found here — a building made of brick housing the memorabilia and paintings of this patriotic, and very controversial painter.

Death of Cleopatra (Museo del Prado @Madrid)

Spolarium (now on display @National Museum of the Philippines)

Luna killed his wife and mother-in-law because of


So goes the story. Makes for a great headline.

The patriot who painted such classics and award-winning Spoliarium (Gold Medal, 1884, now on display at the National Museum of the Philippines), Death of Cleopatra (Silver Medal, 1881, Museo del Prado in Madrid), Parisian Life (another Silver Medal, 1889, GSIS Museum), Battle of Lepanto, Blood Compact (1886, Malacanang Palace), Una Bulakenya (1895, Malacanang Palace), among others. The patriot as a murderer? Says who?

Inside Juan Luna Shrine

The Tour Guide did not miss a beat telling and retelling this story. Sure, Juan Luna shot his mother-in-law and wife dead. We also just learned that he shot his brother-in-law Felix Pardo de Tavera too in the same incident, but this “lucky” fellow survived. Was it an accident or was this a crime of passion?

Most answers you’d find point to Juan Luna shooting his wife Paz in a fit of jealousy. The accused lover was a certain Monsieur Dussaq. Having settled in Paris after his marriage, I can only assume this Dussaq is one Frenchman. So, did Juan shoot his wife et al? All this after only 6 years of marriage. Our Ilocano Tour Guide has another version. Like Juan tried to force open the door to their home in Paris by shooting at the door knob, not knowing the mother-in-law was peeping through the keyhole with the wife right behind her. Quite a stretch………..if you ask me. But oh well, that’s the version. (*big yawn)

The couple had 2 children but one died in infancy. The surviving child, Andres, is also a painter and the architect who designed Arlegui House, the residence of ex-President Cory Aquino, and the San Vicente de Paul Church in San Marcelino Street. Many of his works were unfortunately destroyed during the Second World War.

Rizal as a Scribe? or a Sphinx?

Una Bulakenya (Used To Be On Display @Malacanang Palace, Now @National Art Gallery)

The Other Luna Brothers

Juan’s passion for the arts was influenced by his brother Manuel who was also a painter. A better one, if we were to believe Dr. Jose Rizal. From Badoc, Ilocos Norte, the Luna family moved to Manila where the brothers studied. Manuel and Juan traveled together to Spain where Juan had more art (painting) lessons while Manuel ventured into music and later claimed fame as a violinist.

When Juan was arrested for shooting his wife and later acquitted (on grounds of insanity), it was Antonio (yes, General Antonio Luna) who accompanied him from Paris to Madrid and finally to Manila. Both brothers were arrested for rebellion charges, and later released. Juan headed back to Spain, while Antonio remained and was later killed by the Kawit Batallion (another controversial story involving Emilio Aguinaldo, but that’s another story).

One unfinished, intriguing story involves the painting “Una Bulaquena” or Woman from Bulacan. The painting was inspired by a woman who was allegedly the one great love of Antonio Luna, though the other version cites Juan having courted her after losing/shooting Paz. A case of sibling rivalry? Who knows?

This photo shows how tall or short Rizal was..........

Juan Luna’s Distinguished Models

Not many of us know that Dr. Rizal actually posed as Datu Sikatuna in Juan Luna’s “Blood Compact”. In his silver award-winning painting “Death of Cleopatra”, our national hero actually posed in earlier sittings as a scribe complete with a headdress , making him look like a sphinx. Juan Luna himself posed as Marc Anthony in the same painting. Somehow, I can imagine how these men must have enjoyed all these sittings, horsing around, posing in costumes, etc.

The original Parisian Life painting used to hang here in Bahay Nakpil-Bautista in Quiapo

Then of course everybody knows Dr. Rizal was one of the 3 models in the GSIS-acquired “Parisian Life”. The other 2 gentlemen in the painting were Juan Luna himself and Ariston Bautista, in whose house this same painting hung for years. Errr, that is yet another story again.

But these men were not just models. They were our heroes. Patriots. Gentlemen-friends, if you may. Their love of country, passion for the arts and literature, intellect, perhaps even love of women must have bound them like blood brothers in a place far away from home and family, in an era marked by secret alliances and trysts, murder and heroism.

C’est la vie………..

Inside the Shrine @Badoc, Ilocos Norte

Exit Through The Backyard: More Paintings (Reproductions)