Lot 311
  • 311

Juan Luna

3,000,000 - 5,000,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Juan Luna
  • En El Palco (In the Theatre Box)
  • Signed, signed with a monogram of the artist and dated 84
  • Oil on canvas
  • 100 by 52 cm.; 39 1/4 by 20 1/4 in.


Private Collection, The Philippines
Private Collection, The Netherlands 



The work is in good condition. The canvas has been relined and stretched and is in sound condition. Indications of minor wear and handling are found along the edges and margins of the paintings, along with the associated retouching (most notably on the top register and on the left and right margins), which are visible after inspection under the ultraviolet light. The craquelers are scattered –primarily on the white ruffles of the woman's dress, but the paint layers are stable and well-preserved. There is a 2 ½ inch hairline horizontal linear abrasion on the lower right surface (above the bouquet), which is only visible upon close observation. Framed in a gilded frame.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Juan Luna (1857-99) was the first Filipino artist to be recognized on a global scale. He completed his Bachelor of Arts at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila, and furthered his studies at Madrid's Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, before moving on to Rome to sharpen his skills under the tutelage of Don Alejo Vera. Throughout his career, Luna found himself between Spain, France and Germany, where admiring high society patrons hungered for his work. Juan Luna, inspired by the masters Delacroix, Daumier and Rembrandt, embodied historical and literary Romanticism and added impressionist flair to his creations. He richly focused on detailed displays of social norms of the times and it was these qualities that led to his popular acclaim - the Spolarium, perhaps his most lauded painting, was awarded a gold medal in 1884 by Madrid's Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes (Santiago Albano Pilar, Juan Luna The Filipino as Painter, Edited by Nick Joaquin, Manila: Eugenio López Foundation, Inc., 1980, p.52).

One favorite subject of Luna's was the prestigious opera houses of his era, where the new European bourgeois and aristocracy flaunted wealth, power and influence via fashion and the subsequent creation of a social elite. Luna used public scenes such as these to illustrate the drama within the drama -- which the audience of the show is "on-show" themselves - posturing as they play out their real-life act in parallel to the operatic act played before them. As commented by novelist and screenwriter Anita A.M. Calberg "those looking out and imagining are the same as those being looked at and imagined."

Luna was admired chiefly for the rich textures he displayed in paintings. Opera boxes, bouquets, ladies' dresses. The artist's setting of choice - the opera house - was a perfect compliment as the extravagant setting of onstage ensembles, spectacular seats and choreographed dancers brought out the best of Luna's style (ibid., p. 78). En El Palco (The Opera Box) captures Luna's adoration for the Parisian female perfectly. The woman's figure, with her hair neatly pulled back into a bun and her delicate, fair complexion is a beautiful juxtaposition to the hypnotic musical drama she sees below her. The artist illustrates in detail her elegant evening gown, the embroidered ruffles of her sleeve, and the grace of the feathered fan lying gently on her lap. Juan Luna's balanced composition technique tells a story beyond just the canvas. Watching an observer from afar, the viewer is absorbed by the subject's grace and beauty and is brought into the painting. A piece of true expertise, elegance and originality.

Santiago Albano Pilar, Juan Luna The Filipino as Painter, Edited by Nick Joaquin, Manila: Eugenio López Foundation, Inc., 1980, p. 52, 78Anita A.M. Calberg, 19th Century, Opera, France (ANTELBELLUM), 2009, Internet. Accessed 22 November 2011