A victim of several bungled restorations, the ‘Spolarium’ by Juan Luna is a reminder of the creative powers of the Filipino. This painting measuring 4.22 by 7.67 meters won the First Medal Award in Madrid, Spain during the Exposition of 1884.
Juan Luna’s detractors tried to downplay the achievement (a first by Filipino artists during the Spanish colonial era) by insisting that the award was one of a dozen granted during the event. Whatever the truth (or untruth) behind such ‘award controversies,’ the scandals that dogged the Spolarium do not detract from Luna’s achievement.
Permanently exhibited at the National Museum in Manila, future museum conservators, hopefully, will not make the same mistake as their predecessors who commissioned restorers armed with thinner and paint.
Despite the awful restoration which today’s experts are still attempting to undo, viewing the painting in its actuality remains a impressive experience, a testament to Luna’s creative art.
Long live Philippine art!