Rare works by both national and contemporary artists headline the lots alongside religious iconography
Three works by 19th-century masters will headline the Asian Cultural Council Auction of Leon Gallery at the end of the month, and will be showcased alongside other rare and important works.
“Views of Manila” by Jose Honorato Lozano (1821-1885) is a watercolor gallery of portraits of our capital that was lost through history’s merciless march. Coming from the Benito J Legarda Collection, this was commissioned by a New England trading house who has a satellite office in Manila.
Done in a style pioneered by the artist during the Spanish colonial period, painting images inside letters or “letters and figures,” the work depicts the city in three panels with a panorama of the Manila Bay sandwiched by snippets of the times. Manileños in traditional garb representing their class and trade are engaged in day-to-day activities while in the background the city is seen resplendent in its structures: buildings, ships, bridges, parks, and churches.
“Côte de Bretagne” by Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo (1855-1913) is representative of the early Filipino master’s attention to detail, genteel air, and privilege as a world traveler. His landscapes reflect the leisurely palette of one who would claim Europe as one’s own subject to claim, enjoy, and paint.
This part-seascape, part-landscape embodies the “cool and soothing” aura that one would associate with the lounging at the beach after a night of socializing, giving a rare peek into the vistas of the leisurely class.
“Sorperendidos” by Juan Luna (1857-1899) is a cryptic puzzle that draws from the master’s use of earth-tones highlighted with a red-caped woman, whitewashed walls, a masked stranger, and a slowly flowing river where a harvest-laden boat stops in medias res: “Caught in the act” and “surprised.”
The work immortalizes Venetian landmarks, Rio del Paradiso and Palazzo Ruzzini (now the Ruzzini Palace Hotel), as it alludes to various literary imagery. It takes on various plot twists not just in the imagined narrative of the painting, but also in the historical documentation of the painter’s life.
Accounts say that the title of the work is best translated as “The Elopement,” but it’s anybody’s guess. One thing is certain though, the masterpiece was done during Luna’s honeymoon in Venice.
Apart from these, there is also a generous selection of works by Philippine National Artists:
Rare and important
“Self-Portrait” from the J. V. Cruz Collection by Vicente Manansala (1910-1981) is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to collect the master’s rarely seen stained-glass lightbox works that were produced during his 60s stay in New York as a recipient of the Smith-Mundt Specialist Grant.
“Flame Tree” by Fernando Amorsolo (1892-1972) is a refreshing work that takes audiences out of the golden rice fields with their beauteous country maiden into the heart of the barrio to a typical plaza scene.
“Side Show” by H. R. Ocampo (1911-1978) is a remarkable piece from the master colorist’s figurative phase, a more nationalistic and indignant period that came just after his incarceration and his wife’s demise during that time. “Habagat” by Cesar Legaspi (1917-1994) is a new way of looking at the tension-filled, earth-toned body abstractions of the master. “Variations on Sabel” by BenCab (b.1942) from the Eugenio M Lopez Jr Collection is another refreshing take on a master’s iconic subject.
Life and faith
Featured too are contemporary masters on the block:
“Untitled” by Juvenal Sanso (b. 1929) from the Eugenio M Lopez Jr Collection is a dark pen-and-ink piece that is a great departure from the master’s bright, colorful, and playful bouquets and seascapes available in the market today.
“Baclaran” by Emmanuel Garibay (b.1962) is a powerful depiction of everyday life in one of the country’s busiest shopping centers.
“Dog” by Ronald Ventura (b.1973) interrogates not only what’s human and animal but also what’s real and what’s not. “Tahanan” by Max Balatbat (b.1978) is a geometric reconstruction of the makeshift house—a recurring theme in his body of work revolving around the community he grew up in—in a collage.
Two religious icons are also included in the lineup: the Bulto of Maria Magdalena from the Benito J Legarda Jr Collection is an enigmatic 36-inch tall 17thcentury hardwood image of the kneeling santo with long flowing hair. The Sagrada Familia, on the other hand, is on a baticuling stand and encased in a virina.
These pieces are open for viewing from February 22 to 26, Monday to Friday at Leon Gallery located at the G/F Eurovilla 1, Legazpi corner Rufino Streets, Legazpi Village, Makati. The auction will be live on February 27 at 2 p.m. and will be livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube. For more information and to register to bid online or by phone, contact +632 88578721, and leon-gallery.com.