Lot #034

Juan Luna

signed (lower right)
Oil On Wood
18” x 10” (46 cm x 25 cm)
Starting Bid : Php 2,400,000
HP + BP : Php 3,737,600
Provenance Don Benito Legarda and Teresa de la Paz, thence by descent
Literature Pilar, Santiago Albano, Juan Luna: The Filipino as Painter, Eugenio Lopez Foundation, Inc., Manila, 1980, p. 149 (illustrated)
The subject of the work is a comely European lady depicted in full figure in the formal dress of the time, although she does so with unique casualness. This important painting figures in a European setting and has a hinted detailing of its setting in contrast to the rich detail of the subject’s costume. Luna used a straightforward green-gray wall as a backdrop for his subject’s face and form.
The outfit that the woman wears is notable for its iridescent sheen; Luna’s sense of color is controlled by a strong sense of design.
The portrait’s gracefully curved lines provide the illusion of movement from the subject’s small, lace edged sleeves, up her hands toward her hair. The subject has a deceptively passive face — her deep set eyes and nose are set in a relaxed expression, yet her raised left arm makes for an interesting gesture.
Luna’s rendition of textural illusion is noteworthy in this work. The fabrics of the dress, and the skirt material, can almost be felt by the viewer. The delicate lace edges below the neck seem to shimmer in the light.
Regarded for work done in the manner of the Spanish, Italian, and French academies of his time, he saw his career touch base in three European capitals: Madrid, Rome and Paris.
As a backgrounder, Juan Luna entered the Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid, Spain where he met the taciturn painter Don Alejo Vera. Luna was discontented with the style of teaching in school and decided that it would be much better to apprentice with Vera — and so he did. Eventually, Vera brought him to Rome for some of his commissions, and there Luna was exposed to the art of the Renaissance masters.
Luna developed a friendly relationship with the King of Spain, and was later commissioned by the Spanish Senate to undertake a large canvas, the La Batalla de Lepanto, which greatly challenged him.