Parisian Life: Two Coincidences = Fated Meeting

I can’t remember when I last saw it, but I’m pretty sure it’s way back in high school. Its acquisition was basically the talk of the town for weeks, if not months; so it’s kind of difficult to forget the time I have gone to see it. Well, it’s not like it was planned. We were on a field trip and seeing it was not exactly what we joined the class tour for. So we just passed by it and then moved on. It was just a coincidence that we saw it, after all.

Years after, I’m no longer a kid, and my interests had taken quite a huge leap as time passed. I walk around a place I intended to visit – marveling on the different things I wanted to see. But then it must be coincidence once again. Once more, it was unplanned. I didn’t even know it was there.

But it showed itself to me again, and this time I paid attention.

Parisian Life is recognized as one of the last masterpieces of Juan Luna y Novicio, a celebrated Filipino artist who was known as one of the illustrados, or Filipinos who had managed to finance their academics abroad during the Spanish colonization. Painted on 1892, this impressionist painting is believed to depict the personal life of the artist. According to history, Juan Luna caught his wife, Paz Pardo de Tavera, having an affair with a French physician; and this was how he interpreted it. Months after, Juan Luna’s life turned tumultuous leading to his murder of his wife and mother-in-law. There were so many speculations; but to be honest, I have chosen not to delve into this explanation.

I actually prefer the interpretations of some experts. According to many, the woman is the representation of the Philippines. The way she was seated seems like the inverted islands of the country (with the arm representing Palawan). She was wearing pink and white to symbolize the purity of the country, but her suggestive seating position depicts abuse from its colonizers.

If we are to look at the woman, she looked like she’s trying to stand up. But the ‘curator’ we talked to told us to look closer at her neck. At first I thought, it’s only the typical lacy turtleneck collar; but our guide pointed out that it’s black, which people believed to be a rope pulling the woman up. She was being hung, and for experts, it symbolized the lack of freedom of the country then.

Beside the woman is a coat and hat which depicts that the woman was with someone else. If I’m not mistaken, it is said to show the presence of the Spaniards. The mugs in front of her show different amount, symbolizing the injustice and inequality of the treatment of Filipinos back then.

There were three gentlemen in black, looking at the woman. It is believed that they are Jose Rizal, Juan Luna and Dr. Ariston Bautista – three educated Filipinos who kept on talking about how they could save the country from the colonizers.

Imagine all these messages hidden in this 22x31inches artwork, which paint - in addition - was rumored to have powdered 24-karat gold in it. 

Perhaps, all these information are too profound to take in all at once, and no one even knows what the real interpretation is. But as this is a national culture, I believe every Filipino should try hard to lay eyes on it.

I know its acquisition has been quite an issue. GSIS bought it for 46 million pesos in an auction held in Hong Kong during the time when the government agency was on the brink of bankruptcy. But years after, I realized that perhaps, Winston Garcia did the right thing. The Parisian Life is a national treasure, and for us to move forward as a nation, it is vital that we back ourselves up with the riches of our past.

To be honest, I went to the National Museum for Spoliarium; but apparently, almost like what happened on our field trip day in high school, I was led into something else.

It was sure a great decision to impulsively go around Manila that Sunday, eh?

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