A Filipino collector who sought one of Juan Luna’s forgotten paintings for over a decade now puts it on public display for the first time in 134 years. This internationally renowned artist played an important role in the Philippines’ independence.
The long-forgotten masterpiece of renowned Filipino painter and national hero, Juan Luna, was unveiled at the Ayala Museum in Makety City to honor the 125th anniversary of Philippine independence. This is the first time the painting is exposed publicly in the past 130 years.
Luna began painting “Hymen, Oh that’s Hymen”, also known as “The Roman Marriage”, in 1886 and completed it in Venice in 1887. This artwork depicts the moment a bride arrives at the groom’s house during a Roman marriage.
The first and last public display of this painting traces back to the World Exhibition in Paris in 1889, where it won a bronze medal. Shortly later, this artwork entered a private collection and was never exhibited again, and only existed in public memory.
Jami Ponce de Leon’s ambition was to find this legendary artwork. He is a collector, art dealer, and the founder of Leon Gallery in Makety in 2010. This took almost a decade of his life. After searching all over Europe, he finally managed to acquire this artwork in 2014.
The painting is now on its second public opening as the star of the Ayala Museum “Glory: Juan Luna, Heroic Painter” – and will be on display until December 30, 2023. The work will be part of a massive multimedia show, designed by set designer Gino Gonzalez, aiming at the story of the artist’s life, his migration, and his place and importance to Philippine nationalism.
Choosing a painting by Luna to commemorate independence is admirable action because this artist was a political activist who played an important role in the Philippine revolution in the 1890s. After joining the Katipunan rebel army, he was arrested and imprisoned by the Spanish authorities in 1896. Two years later, the revolutionary government of the Philippines appointed him to gather support for the recognition of the Republic of the Philippines globally.
A decade before this event, Luna painted “Hemen, Oh that’s Hemene”. His fondness for this subject may be a reflection of his marriage to his wife, María de La Paz Pardo de Tavera, in 1886. The couple lived in Paris, but the emotions caused by jealousy finally forced Luna to shoot and kill Paz and his mother-in-law. He was acquitted in 1893 of the charges related to intentional murder after this incident was declared to be an honor killing.