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Juan Luna Painting Recovered After 132 Years

Holy Grail Juan Luna Painting
James Francisco

It comes as no question that art assumes a centerpiece of cultural significance, with Juan Luna recognized as one of the nation’s pioneers. The Renaissance man captivated the importance and soul of the classical genre—redefining Filipino artistry and introducing it to the world. 

Comprised in his extensive portfolio come the coveted Spoliarium (National Museum of Fine Arts, Manila), The Death of Cleopatra (Museo del Prado, Madrid), The Blood Compact (Malacañang Palace, Manila), and several others as the Hymen, oh Hyménée! makes its debut on Filipino soil at the Ayala Museum in Makati City

The painting, rediscovered in Europe, was last seen in Luna’s possession up until his death in 1899.

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Juan Luna’s Hymen, oh Hyménée! via GMA News

Assumed to be destroyed during the revolution, the “Holy Grail of Philippine art” is said to be part of Luna’s collection—not intended for contests or as a commission piece. The Roman wedding depiction invites a subtle tale, combining delectable mundane occurrences and calm palettes, contrasting the familiar scene of dying gladiators.

The Philippine National Hero’s holy grail was acquired after a 10-year journey by curator Jaime Ponce de Leon, describing the search as “a race where no one would share the map” for the masterpiece of myth. The León Gallery’s founder mentioned having acquired the artifact in 2014, which is currently on loan in the country until December of 2023.

“I got a call and at a doorstep of a certain aristocratic home. And there I was, I could not believe what was revealed to me, it was the grail,” de Leon mentioned.

In line with the country’s 125th celebration of independence, Ayala Museum curates a Luna-centered collection available to the public. “Splendor: Juan Luna, Painter as Hero” embodies the creative direction of Gino Gonzales, procuring an exhibit brimming with remnants of the Filipino icon and documenting the journey of acquiring the never before seen masterpiece.

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