The Parisian Life Painting of Juan Luna



"The Parisian Life" painting is also known as Interior d’Un Café or "Inside a Café", even titled in some books as "The Maid" and "Un Coquette" or literally someone who is one step lower than prostitute painted by Juan Luna. He is known to use prostitutes as models in his painting sessions for a very obvious reason - they're paid cheap. In 1904 at the World Fair’s Saint Louis Exposition in the United States, this  painting won Silver Medal.

Forty-six million pesos! While we see homeless families living under bridges and beggars everywhere, how could the GSIS able to bear buying a painting which in any moment could be in a foreign hand and could never be given back to us through an auction so expensive like this? "The Parisian Life" painting is one of Juan Luna’s obra maestras done in Paris, France year 1892. This is not Juan Luna’s most popular painting – it is the “Spoliarium” but the story behind it is very unusual. This painting is showing a lady wearing a flamboyant hat, in a French dress with long sleeves, ruffled ends and length reaching beyond her ankles. Not so far from her back are three men who look like making gossips about her.


The three men in "The Parisian Life" painting are actually heroes in Philippine History: Jose Rizal, Ariston Bautista Lin and Luna himself. A "Kwentong Barbero" version of this painting explains the story behind which is about these men in a coffee shop exchanging glances over a prostitute: two of them planning who will be the first to hook her up tonight and the other one sharing he just actually gone to bed with this same girl a night ago. What a story all worth of a historical value and international award! But if one has an eye that can see beyond this painting made in oil, this lady actually has a "geographical likeness" to the mirror-image or the map of the archipelago of the Philippines. You put a map of the Philippines over her and it seems she is really the Philippines at that time. Her knees (we kneel when we pray) matched to Cebu in the map where Roman Catholicism started and on her navel (means birth) is the Kawit, Cavite map where our First Independence was declared and a lot more coincidences! Her left arm a bit detached in a downward slant signifies the Palawan islands! She appears to be strangled too as there is a line on top of her head because that time Philippines is under colony.


One very interesting fact about Luna is he is a man of temper and known about his jealousy over his wife's alleged infidelity. After killing his wife, mother-in-law and wounded his brother-in-law by gunshots he was never jailed for long in France because the Queen Regent of Spain helped her as she is regarded as a "National Treasure" at that time because of his paintings. In fact, he remains to be until today. Our previous administrations tried to ask his “La Batalla de Lepanto" painting displayed in Senate Hall of Spain to be given back to us until now but Spain insisted the painting should remain to them because it was done when Philippines is still under colony of Spain.


“The Parisian Life” painting according to GSIS Pres. Winston Garcia was brought back home for P46 million through an auction bid. This painting if divided to the 1.3 GSIS million members would only cost P36 each. Currently, the painting is now valued at P200 million or $8,000. Not bad at all for a purchasing a painting in the name of heritage. But wait there is a rumor circulating someone or a group of ready to buy this in its current amount. Should we or should we let go of this painting? We can feed so many people in this amount.


This talk The Parisian Life painting of Juan Luna was delivered by Michael Charles "Xiao " Chua,  historian at GSIS Museum last Aug. 6th, 2011. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Wohow! After four years, I have finally seen the Parisian Life Painting again in National Museum. It is now the permanent home for Juan Luna's masterpieces including the Spoliarium. It is located at the 3rd level, of National Museum's National Art Gallery. Entrance fee is Php 150 for regular visitors, less Php30 to senior citizens. The National Museum of the Philippines or Museum of the Filipino People Manila is located along Taft Ave, Ermita, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila. You can click here my blog review of Juan Luna's Parisian Life 2016. 

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