- Juan Luna
- España y Filipinas (Spain and Philippines)
- Signed and dated 1884
- Oil on canvas
Pedro Paterno, Prime Minister of the first Philippine Republic
Private Collection, Spain
Private Collection, USA
Historia Del Arte Hispanico, Volume 5, 1949, P. 597
Santiago Albano Pilar, Juan Luna, The Filipino as Painter, Eugenio Lopez Foundation, 1980, P. 108
Carlos G. Navarro, La decoración de Juan Luna y Novicio para el Museo-Biblioteca de Ultramar: las obras conservadas en el Museo del Prado y sus modelos formales, Revista Española Del Pacífico, 2006-2007, P. 259
A RARE AND HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT PAINTING
Juan Luna y Novicio is considered one of the greatest painters in Philippine history. His achievements as a classical painter in the 1880's quickly elevated him to the top circles of European art, and for the first time brought respect to Filipino artists. España y Filipinas is one of his most iconic paintings, rich with historical significance and emblematic of his development as an artist.
Luna was one of the leading members of the Filipino expatriate community in Europe along with luminaries such as Jose Rizal (the Philippine National Hero). These expatriates desired to reform Spain’s rule of the Philippines, and laid the intellectual foundation for rebellion against Spain. España y Filipinas was part of this historical dialog on the relationship between Spain and the Philippines.
As a young man in the Philippines, Luna took up painting at the Academia de Dibujo y Pintura de Manila where he was advised to pursue further studies in Europe. He entered the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid in 1877, and two years later followed one of his professors, Alejo Vera, to Rome. The ancient ruins of Pompeii and Naples had a profound effect on Luna, with the artist fascinated by Greco-Roman imagery and aesthetics. His painting La Muerte de Cleopatra (The Death of Cleopatra) (Fig. 1) won a silver prize in the 1881 Exposicion de Bellas Artes in Madrid and was followed in 1884 by Spoliarium (Fig. 2), his biggest triumph. Spoliarium, a gory scene of defeated gladiators being shorn of their armor, weapons, and garments under the Coliseum in Rome, was awarded a gold medal in the 1884 Expo sicion de Bellas Artes in Madrid. Very rarely did Europeans grant colonial artists the same respect shown to their local artists. Spoliarium forced critics to take notice and vaulted Luna to the top ranks of European artists. Luna’s victory also inspired expatriate Filipinos to work for reforms to the Spanish-Filipino relationship that eventually led to the Philippine Revolution against Spain in 1896, and the establishment of the First Philippine Republic in 1899.
1884 was an important year of transition for Juan Luna. Buoyed by his success with Spoliarium, he was no longer a struggling artist and was beginning to receive attention and commissions from wealthy and powerful patrons. In the same year he left Italy and, after a brief hiatus in Madrid, moved to Paris. Most importantly, Luna was beginning his evolution from traditional Classical-Romanticism to the new and modern ideas of Realism. Along with his move to Paris came a shift from the academic style he had learned in Spain and Rome. The scenes from ancient Rome (e.g. Spoliarium) and even ancient history (e.g. Muerte de Cleopatra (The Death of Cleopatra)) began to fade from his work. His color palette also changed, and so did his choice of themes.
España y Filipinas, also known as España Guiando a Filipinas en el Camino del Progreso (Spain Leading the Philippines on the Path of Progress), was painted in this year of transition for Luna. The allegorical painting is a comment on the political relationship between Spain and the colonial Philippines. It shows Spain (España) guiding the Philippines (Filipinas) up the steps of progress. Are they sisters, or mother and daughter? Regardless, it is clear that España is the leader. Both are garbed in classical Greco-Roma n dress and with wreaths of laurel in their hair. España is fair while Filipinas is darker-skinned. They have paused part-way up the stairs for España to point far above in the distance, to the glory to which they ascend. Filipinas holds a quill feather pen in her hand, possibly connoting spiritual, emotional or intellectual ascension. The painting demonstrates Luna’s mastery of classical composition and his powerful use of color. Though the two women face away from us, there is a remarkable depth of expression in the painting. The sweeping brushstrokes, the dramatic folds of the dresses, the flowers strewn on the steps and the dramatic play of light in the radiant sky; all these confirm Luna’s mastery of this form.
Luna painted several versions of this painting, highlighting the importance he gave to the subject and the attention it drew from patrons. A prototype shows Filipinas kneeling on the stairs before España, who carries a sword and the scales of justice (Fig. 3). This is believed to have been destroyed along with many of Luna’s paintings in World War II. The 1884 version of España y Filipinas was next, for the first time displaying Luna’s more equal representation of the two women.
España y Filipinas was seen by Victor Balaguer, the Spanish Minister of Overseas Affairs and an important patron of the arts, who requested a larger version for his office library and later a smaller copy for his museum in Catalonia. The larger version, dated 1888, is now in the collection of the Prado Museum in Madrid, while the one created for Balaguer’s Library Museum (Fig. 4), dated circa 1892, is now a centerpiece of the Lopez Museum’s collection in Manila.
The paintings mirror Luna’s progression from Classical-Romanticism to Realism. While the 1884 painting shows España y Filipinas in classical Greco-Roman attire, the later paintings show both figures in more modern Spanish and Philippine dress. While in the 1884 painting Filipinas holds a feather pen, this symbolic detail has been removed from later versions.
España y Filipinas was part of the dialog on the Spanish-Philippine relationship which was taking place in the late 1800’s, and the painting was noted by leading figures of the time. Jose Rizal said “Luna has always been Hispanophile; he never wanted to paint anything against the Spaniards; his painting España y Filipinas’ shows them on the way to the temple of glory, led by Spain….” Graciano Lopez Jaena (an important intellectual and founder of the prominent reformist publication La Solidaridad), said “the brush of the genius can be perceived in it” and slyly commented that Luna should have added a Spanish friar blindfolding Filipinas. Luna himself, in a Manila prison for rebellion in 1896, pointed to España y Filipinas as proof of his pro-Spanish sentiment.
The painting was originally given by Luna as a gift to Pedro Paterno, who displayed it in his home in Madrid (called by many the “Museo Paterno”). Paterno, himself an important figure in Philippine history and the Prime Minister of the First Philippine Republic, was a patron of the Philippine expatriate community. It has been suggested that Paterno proposed the theme to Luna; Paterno was then a strong supporter of Spanish involvement in the Philippines. España y Filipinas was soon acquired by a friend of Paterno’s wife, whose family retained the painting until last year. The painting has been featured in several publications, including the December 13, 1886 issue of Ilustracíon Artistica, Juan de Contreras’s Historia Del Arte Hispanico (1949), Santiago Pilar’s Juan Luna, The Filipino as Painter (1980), and recently Carlos G. Navarro’s article published in Revista Española Del Pacífico (2006-2007).
España y Filipinas is demonstrative of Luna’s influence upon the emergence of Philippine modern art at the turn of the century. The painting reinforced Luna’s status as one of the first Filipino artists to be respected in Europe, his talents overcoming existing prejudices of that era. The achievement had a lasting effect on the Filipino presence in the art world, with new generations of artists redefining their roles as equals amongst their European peers.