By Dom Galeon
Images by Noel Pabalate
Video by David Clarence Rivera
How do you beat a Luna painting? By offering two Luna paintings—and more.
This is what Salcedo Auctions has in store for its first sale for 2019 this coming Saturday, March 9. Dubbed as the “Revelations: Important Philippine Art” sale, it comes at the heels of the hugely successful (and quite intriguing) sale of the Boceto for Spoliarium, Juan Luna’s study for his gold-winning entry to the 1884 Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in Madrid, which sold for R63 million last September.
“Not very many people know that Luna won twice at the Madrid Exposition, first place for the Spoliarium in 1884 and silver for his La Muerte de Cleopatra (Death of Cleopatra) in 1881,” explains Salcedo Auctions executive director Richie Lerma. “And now, we have another boceto, the one for Death of Cleopatra.”
Richie adds that this piece serves as a bridge to Luna’s style influences. The Cleopatra boceto comes with a dedication, signed by Luna for his father, dated 1880. Originally from the collection of Eleuterio Pascual, it was last seen at a retrospective exhibition held at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila in 1988. It is, therefore, a published work.
Equally fascinating is the second Luna now at Salcedo, a previously unknown work called The Hunting Party. It comes from the estate of Doña Marian Nuñez Rodriguez, from the branch of her family that previously owned Luna’s España y Filipinas, currently part of the National Gallery of Singapore’s collection. Nuñez Rodriguez was the widow of Don Francisco Vazquez Gayoso, who in turn inherited the paintings from his father, Don Jose Vazquez Castiñeira, previously the mayor of a town in northern Spain sometime in the late 19th century.
This piece is also quite telling of Luna’s technique and style. It combines a mix of impressionist strokes (as seen in the detail of the hunters on the horizon) with a touch of baroque tenebrism (the foreground is darker than the background). Luna also adjusted the main figure of the piece—the hunter—from wearing a hat to instead waving the hat to distant hunters. Then there’s the detail of the dog breaking the proverbial fourth wall, gazing at the onlooker, a style typical of Luna’s time.
Of course, as if paired by the artistic gods, whenever there is a Juan Luna there is a Félix Resurrección Hidalgo. Capping the three main pieces for the March 9 sale is Hidalgo’s Draped Nude, Reclining in a Forest Landscape. This piece, which comes from the same family’s collection, has remained hidden for 130 years, Richie says. That alone is enough to make it a fascinating addition to any collection. Hidalgo’s Draped Nude was among the collections put on display by the family of Vasquez Castiñeira at the 1893 Exposición Historico-Natural y Etnografica in Madrid, where it was referred to as En la soledad del bosque (In the solitude of the forest) in the exhibition catalogue.
These three are undoubtedly masterpieces but these aren’t the only ones that will be available on sale this Saturday. There’s a large narra relief sculpture by National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco, a 1971 marble sculpture by Napoleon Abueva, unique cubist-expressionist pieces from National Artist Ang Kiukok, National Artist Jose Joya’s Blue Dream, as well as works by Romeo Tabuena, Lao Lianben, Romulo Olazo, and a collection of pieces from 1969 to 2008 by National Artist BenCab. Rounding up the artworks on sale are contemporary pieces from Ronald Ventura, Manuel Ocampo, Maria Taniguchi, as well as emerging talents, including Ateneo Art Awards winner Ronson Culibrina.
Together with this venerable collection of art, Salcedo Auction will also have an “Important Philippine Furniture and Important Philippine Tribal & Ethnographic Art” sale. All of the pieces were unveiled at a preview dinner last Feb. 21 at the home of Dr. Vicki Belo, who is a co-presenter with Salcedo Auctions, together with Hennessy XO, Hennessy Paradis Imperial, Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch Whisky, and BMW.
The two Lunas and the Hidalgo, together with all the other works on sale, can be previewed at Three Salcedo Place daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until the day of the auctions on March 9. For more inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (02) 659 4094, (02) 823 0956, (+639) 17 894 6550. Follow @salcedoauctions on Facebook and Instagram.