June 19, 2011

Parisian Life of Juan Luna

Jose Rizal is one of the men in the background of Juan Luna’s award-winning painting. ”Parisian Life” won the Silver Medal at the St. Louis Exposition (World’s Fair).


GSIS museum director Eric Zerrudo sugeests that there are three possible interpretations of the work.

The first one is that the woman was a courtesan who caught the eye of the three Filipino patriots while they were discussing affairs regarding their homeland in the cafe.

Another interpretation is that the painting hints at Luna's family problems. Close to the time of the painting's completion, Luna was struggling with personal tragedies--the death of his infant daughter and his suspicion his wife was having an affair with a French doctor. The half-empty beer mug in the table in front of the woman and the coat on the sofa may be suggestive symbolisms.

Zerrudo's third theory on the painting is that the woman in the painting may be intended to represent the Philippines, her form suggesting a mirror image of the Philippine archipelago.

What appear to be artistic flaws in the painting--the dark neck of the woman and the awkward placement of her head against a window joint which thus appears to jut out of her head--may have been intentionally done to symbolize the state of the Philippines at that time.

What is certain, Bienvenido Lumbera points out, is that Juan Luna was a master painter whose works should be valued, and that the painting has historical significance as it depicts a typical scene in the lives of Philippine patriots staying in Europe.

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