A highly esteemed Filipino painter, Juan Luna (1857-1899), significantly impacted Philippine art history with his exceptional skill and emotional depth. Luna’s paintings showcase his mastery of technique, capturing human emotions and blending Western and Filipino influences. Even after his death, Luna’s legacy endures, as his masterpieces are cherished as national treasures in the Philippines. His profound impact on Philippine art inspires artists and enthusiasts worldwide, establishing him as a respected figure in art history.
Here are some of Luna’s famous masterpieces:
166″x 302″ Oil on Canvas
The painting shows a glimpse of Roman history, focusing on the brutal aftermath of gladiatorial battles. It depicts fallen gladiators being dragged by Roman soldiers while spectators eagerly await their chance to strip them of their armor. However, a sad scene unfolds with an older man searching for his son and a grieving woman.
This artwork also symbolizes the suffering and loss endured by Filipinos during the Spanish colonial era.
The painting won the First Gold Medal at a renowned art exposition in Madrid.
“The Parisian Life”
22″ x 31″ Oil on Canvas
“The Parisian Life” portrays a scene in a Paris café featuring a woman seated on a sofa with three men nearby. The woman symbolizes the Philippines, representing its struggle under colonization. Her seating position resembles the country’s geographic shape, and her clothing represents purity; however, her black turtleneck implies a lack of freedom.
The painting gathers important figures in Philippine history, including Luna, Jose Rizal, and Ariston Bautista Lin, discussing the country while maintaining their Filipino identity.
“The Battle of Lepanto”
137″ x 216″ Oil on Canvas
This painting depicts Don Juan of Austria, a Spanish admiral and governor, leading the Spaniards in a significant victory over the Turks.
It represents the triumph of Catholicism and Spanish national pride. In the battle, the union of Catholics successfully defeats the invading forces of Islam, preventing the conquest of the West and reflecting the Spaniards’ pride in their Catholic faith.
“España y Filipinas (Spain and Philippines)”
90.4″ x 31.3″ Oil on Canvas
In this transitional period for Luna, he created “España y Filipinas,” also titled “Espana Guiando a Filipinas en el Carmino del Progreso” (Spain Leading the Philippines on the Path of Progress).
This metaphorical artwork comments on the political ties between Spain and its colonial Philippines. It illustrates Spain leading the Philippines toward progress, symbolically guiding the nation toward development.
“Hymen, oh Hyménée!”
49.2” x 98.4” Oil on Canvas
Luna’s long-lost masterpiece, ” Hymen, oh Hyménée!” was recently discovered after being hidden for 132 years. This highly desirable masterpiece won a bronze medal at the 1899 Paris Exposition Universelle, and its whereabouts afterwards were unknown.
Art collector Jaime Ponce de Leon dedicated a decade to finding the painting, which he finally achieved in 2014.
In 2022, a long-term loan agreement between León Gallery and Ayala Museum paved the way for its revelation. The legendary artwork is now publicly displayed in an exhibition called “Splendor: Juan Luna, Painter as Hero.”
The exhibition runs until December 31, 2023, at the Ayala Museum, Greenbelt Park, Makati Avenue corner Dela Rosa Street, Ayala Center, Makati City. Regular rates are Php650. – Toby Denise Concepcion