Sunday, March 23, 2014

From Madrid to Manila, Juan Luna's Spoliarium Mesmerizes

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
What's more surprising was how they transported it back. Because of its huge canvas, they had to cut the whole piece into several squares so they could fly it back to Manila. Are masterpieces really turned into jigsaw puzzle pieces for transport? The practice seems ridiculous.

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!

No comments: