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Coming home from the National Art Gallery (The old Senate Building, which is now part of the National Museum complex), I couldn’t help but ponder on the “controversial” Luna painting entitled “Parisian Life”. The guide that was there (very rare for a guide to be there on Sundays) was talking to a bunch of students and I could not help but listen in while I was looking at the painting. He was telling them that this was pretty much talked about a few years ago because it somehow got “lost” and was mysteriously picked up by Christie’s (yes, the auction house).
When I got home, I read up about it this painting online and came across some fascinating bits of information. Aside from what the guide had already told me (indirectly, anyway), I found out that the lady cryptically symbolized these 7,107 Philippine Islands as her silhouette would form the mirror-image of the otherwise dog-like form of the archipelago. Beta.philippine-trivia.com even details how her body contours are the same as the main islands such as Luzon, Palawan, etc.
Upon reading that, the curious hair on the right side of my left nostril stood on end. It got me thinking, “well, what if there were other hidden clues?” Actually, I couldn’t find any on my own. Nothing that wasn’t already previously published by someone else, anyway. I did notice a bemoustachioed bloke on the side seated and surrounded by two more guys in similar outfits. Based on history lessons and books, I know for a fact that Juan Luna, the painter himself, sported the same handlebar on his face. I thought to myself, “Either he did an Alfred Hitchcock decades before the master cinematographer, or this guy he painted was Del Pilar (but then Del Pilar was in Madrid, so that narrows it down). Sure enough, Beta.Philippine-trivia.com (along with other sites such as varsitarian.net and loqal.ph) confirmed Mr. Moustache to indeed be Juan Luna. As an added bonus easter egg, these sites even explain that those at the table with the handlebar’d hombre are National Hero Pepe Rizal and a certain Dr. Ariston Bautista Lin (who these sites say is credited for discovering “a medicine that stopped the onslaught of countrywide cholera epidemic at the turn of the century” but also was allegedly the financier of the Propaganda Movement towards Fil-Spanish equality or whatever they claimed to really want. So, with these three together located off-center on the western edge of the artwork, can we say that Luna was a leftist? *Badum-tss*. Moving on.
So these facts (and other minor ones) actually caught my attention, but what really got my blood up an extra degree Celcius was the little tidbit I read about the cost at which it was bought back by the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) for the Philippines. Nevermind that somehow it was lost. Nevermind that it ended up at Christies. The GSIS (at the time of Parisian Life’s homecoming in 2002) bought the painting back from Christie’s for P46Million. Rappler.com says critics did not take this well. Well, please, dear monseiurs, madames, mademoiselles and maamsirs, tell me who would take it well? If you check http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=3992834 (The specific Christie’s sight for Sale 2119 Lot 62 – The Parisian Life), you can see the estimated price set by the Auction House of USD257,690. If you take that against the US dollar value at which the painting was bought (roughly USD870,000), one cannot help but wonder some more.
I am still asking myself questions right now. Was this bought outright or was this auctioned (“Purchased”, as the sources say it was by the GSIS, could be either one)? If it was bought, why at an over-USD600,000 price? If it was auctioned, was it necessary, since we already have Luna’s Obra Maestra here with us? Is this worth the people’s money, when they don’t even care about their Art Treasures enough to visit them on sunday for free at the National Museum?
Too bad if I go LUNA right now and shoot someone (or two) out of anger and madness, it will not be considered a “crime of passion” anymore. I’d probably get the chair.
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