Tag Archives: Spolarium

#261 National Museum

The National Museum of the Philippines is the official repository established in 1901 as a natural history and ethnography museum of the Philippines. It is located next to Rizal Park and near Intramuros in Manila. Its main building was designed in 1918 by American architect Daniel Burnham. Today, that building, the former home of the Congress of the Philippines, houses the National Art Gallery, natural sciences and other support divisions.

The adjacent building in the Agrifina Circle of Rizal Park, formerly housing the Department of Finance, houses the Anthropology and Archaeology Divisions and is known as the Museum of the Filipino People. At the National Art Gallery masterpieces such as Juan Luna’s Spolarium is displayed in one of the central halls. Contemporary and modern art exhibits are also regularly held at the gallery.

Burnham’s design recalls neo-classicist architecture and was part of the extensive city planning of Manila designed to renovate the capital during the early days of the US colonial era. In World War 2 the National Building and other landmark buildings in downtown Manila and Intramuros were destroyed and badly damaged during the carpet bombing of the Allied Forces in their efforts to defeat the retreating Japanese Army. Post-war reconstruction efforts of these landmarks buidlings were partly financed by both US and Japanese governments. (From: Wikipedia and other sources)

Long live the National Museum!

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#4 Spolarium

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!

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