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The Mystery Behind Parisian Life Painting of Juan Luna

I had a chance to visit again the National Museum after so many years by accompanying a blog reader from London. I couldn't remember the last time I went here, could be last 2013 and that was during Museum Day - it is free entrance that time. I was with friends who aren't there to learn about what is inside. They decided to come because it is gratis so we ended up chatting at each other, skipping some exhibits and walked home empty.

This time I was with someone who I think has interest in heritage. I thought that I have nothing more to see there but I was surprised that the Parisian Painting of Juan Luna is now permanently shown there. I remember in 2011, I went on a talk inside GSIS about this painting of Juan Luna that stirred controversy when it was bought back for Php 46 million pesos in a public auction at Christie's in Hong Kong.

Click HERE the Controversial story behind GSIS buying a painting worth Php46 million of Juan Luna's The Parisian Life

This painting is considered a national treasure of our country and that if the GSIS won't win the bidding, it will be forever be lost.  The Parisian Panting 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. The forty - six million shelled out, caused major uproar to most of humanitarian groups lamenting that this amount could already feed millions of poor Filipinos. Of course, I do understand where are these people coming from. Right now, this painting is already worth more than Php 1 billion peso. There are a lot of private collectors from all over the world, ready to buy this more than this price!

I even remembered blogging about the Parisian Life by Juan Luna interpretation back in 2011, you can click here the link that shows the mystery and creepy story of this painting. Right now, what I'm sharing you is a few more trivia about this painting as told by the caption and story in the National Museum.

"Oct 1894, Juan Luna moved to Paris. His painting style has changed too - from dark colors of the palettes to using lighter colors of mood. It was called Parisian Period in his life that happened until Feb 1893. It was also this time that Luna, together with Dr Jose Rizal have been very active in the Philippine Propaganda movement. Other noted Filipino personality whom they "worked" with is Dr Ariston Bautista Lim who worked tirelessly for reforms against the Spanish colonization. Ultimately, they've become friends as evidenced by exchange of letters, frequent gatherings in Paris including fencing sessions in the backyard of Luna's Paris home.

One of the most important fruits of their friendship is the painting called "Parisian Life" by Juan Luna. Parisian Life or IDC depicts a delicious slice of the artist's personal life in the capital city of France. It captures a fleeting moment preserved up to now with two of his closest friends during a casual evening in a cafe, possibly, Maxim's. The three men in the left side while Luna paints are Jose Rizal, Ariston Lim and himself. Rizal is shown with his back half - turned, Luna sits jauntly in the center while Ariston Lim sits closest to the lady. It shows that the painting's season is springtime, suggested by the pale lavender of the woman's frock and the flowers on her hat. Certainly, this is a moment of happiness and contentment to the three gentlemen. 

Set in the far left corner of the painting, they are obviously overshadowed by a prominent figure of a lady. Luna is known as an indefatigable painter of women. He is said to have been paying prostitutes to use them as subjects for his painting, sometimes nude. Compared to ordinary and educated ladies, these ask just a cheap price of "talent" fee. After a few months from painting Parisian Life, Rizal and Ariston Lim returned to the Philippines actively participating for the Revolution. Lina, in Feb 1893 departed for Madrid then to the Philippines.

Parisian Life is said to be his last major work. When Luna arrived in Manila in 1894, he traveled more than painted, finishing only a handful of the Philippine landscapes. He moved back to France in 1898, appointed by the Philippine revolutionary government as member of the Parisian delegation working for the diplomatic recognition of the Philippine Republic. He died in 1899 in Hong Kong, en route to the Philippines.

Ariston Lim, not only served as a clinical physician but also continued supporting financially the Katipunan (a secret society founded to secure independence to Spain), the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine - American war. He committed a life as an influential confidante to succeeding generations of Filipino political figures."

You can see Juan Luna Y Novicio (1857-1899) Parisian Life painting in the 3rd level of National Museum's National Art Gallery. Entrance fee is Php150 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. 

To learn about the directions on how to go to National Museum, please click here.

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