Like his famous and equally gifted uncle Simon Flores y de la Rosa (1839 - 1904), Fabián de la Rosa y Cueto would find himself enrolled as well at the Manila Academy of Fine Arts in Intramuros. Orphaned at age 16, however, he would have to drop out in his third year. He would remain a lifelong friend with his teacher, the most admired art professor of the time, Don Lorenzo Guerrero. Left to fend for himself, De la Rosa would take his talent for painting to the city sidewalks, selling small works to tourists for fifty centavos each. He would also make a living at the famous Sala de Armas fencing school established by the Luna brothers, Juan and Antonio, upon their return. He was apparently talented enough to be taken on as an instructor. One of his students happened to be the young Apolinario Mabini, still nimble on his feet. Between 1893 and 1897, Fabián de la Rosa would also begin to make a name for himself, alongside his contemporaries Jorge Pineda and Ramon Peralta. He would become successful enough to set his sights abroad. In 1898, he began lobbying for the annual Madrid art scholarships to be re-instated. This was the entry point of Luna and Resurreccion Hidalgo to international fame and fortune. It would be the only way that De la Rosa could ever possibly afford to make his way abroad. His chances would be swept away in the maelstrom of the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine-American War that followed soon after. Nevertheless, he would continue to build a clientele of the wealthy who would come to his studio to be immortalized in portraits. At the pivotal St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904—where the newly-minted American empire was eager to show off its latest possession, the Philippine Islands—Fabián de la Rosa brought home the gold for his work Planting Rice. It was the passing of the baton from the Spanish era’s enfant terrible Juan Luna, away from the blood-soaked dungeon of the Spoliarium and Resurreccion Hidalgo’s despoliation of the Christian virgins to the verdant and more importantly, peaceful vistas of Fabián de la Rosa. The new colonial caesars had correctly divined that art in their praise would be the final act of conquest. Thus by the second decade of the 20th century, Fabián de la Rosa had grown into his own. Having returned from a grant to study in Europe “under the best teachers” thanks to a generous stipend from Don Ariston Bautista Lin’s Germinal cigar factory, he was pursued by the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts to join its faculty. In 1926, he succeeded the pioneering founder, the ebullient Rafael Enriquez as director of the School. (He would likewise be succeeded by his nephew, Fernando Amorsolo y Cueto.) Two years later, having saved enough money from his various commissions, he sailed at his own expense to Paris with his wife. He travelled and painted for some four months, visiting Munich and Geneva as well as the art capitals of Madrid and Rome. Later that year, he is reported to have exhibited his works at the Ateneo de Madrid, to much acclaim. Interestingly enough, another old connection from a previous life in Manila’s Spanish social circles surfaced to his advantage. He was none other than Miguel Primo de Rivera—who Fabián had come to know while the lad was aide-de-camp to his father Fernando Primo de Rivera. The older Primo de Rivera as Governor-General of the Philippines had negotiated the infamous Pact of Biak-na-Bato with Aguinaldo in 1897. Miguel Primo de Rivera would serve as Spain’s prime minister (some say dictator) from 1923 to 1930 and at his instance would persuade the Spanish government to acquire a canvas depicting the Ysla de Balut. In truth, his skill at portraiture would ensure his place in the pantheon of Filipino artists. (At one point, just before the outbreak of the Philippine-American War, he was clapped into jail and was only released because he had painted the portrait of an important American official.) It is in this period of accomplishment and plenty, fortified by foreign scholarship and travel, that A Penny for Your Thoughts was painted by the maestro Fabián de la Rosa. It is less a portrait of a modern 20th-century flapper than a recording of a single dreamy moment in a woman’s life. The sitter is half-aware of the painter’s presence and is caught, with just a hint of a half-smile playing on her lips, in between the world of fantasy and reality. — Lisa Guerrero Nakpil