It was the real thing! Juan Luna's "Spoliarium" was hanging on a wall in Madrid's Museo del Prado which is among Europe's Top 5 must-visit museums. This took me by surprise because how could a prized masterpiece hang far away from its country of origin! Madrilenos were lucky to see this jaw-dropping masterpiece, and I felt privileged to have seen it in Spain. Fast forward to 2014, during a visit at an ancestral house in Silay, Bacolod, the owner relayed an anecdote about Spain returning the "Spoliarium" to the Philippines.
|Madrid's Museo del Prado
Two weeks later, during my very first visit of the National Gallery in Manila, it was a surreal experience to finally see the "Spoliarium" gracing a whole exhibition hall - right where it belongs!
The Spoliarium was Juan Luna's submission to a national arts competition in Madrid in 1884. It won the first of three gold prizes; also won by another Filipino painter Felix Hidalgo ("The Christian Virgins Exposed to the Populace"). Spoliarium took 8 months to finish and uses the Roman slave gladiators as Luna's subject, a metaphor to the Spanish colonization of the Philippines.
But what I couldn't help thinking was how small the world has become - and Madrid, Manila and Bacolod have linked up in less than six degrees of separation. Isn't that simply amazing?
This is the Eye in the Sky!