Juan Luna painted this masterpiece during his honeymoon in Venice

Published February 26, 2021, 3:02 PM

by John Legaspi

That and more significant art pieces will be present at Leon Gallery Asian Cultural Council Auction 2021

Juan Luna’s “Sorpendido”

As history tells it, Juan Luna’s love affair with Maria de la Paz Pardo Tavera had no shortage of drama and scandal. There were concerns about the couple’s contrasting façade and social status, as well as the issue of jealousy that led to the death of Tavera and her mother. See, drama. But before the gun was fired and the tumultuous trial began, like any other newly-wed couple, Luna and Paz had their honeymoon phase. Theirs was set in the romantic Venice. 

A land filled with beautiful architecture and calm canals, it’s hard for an artist not to give in to the multitude of inspiration Venice has to offer. According to an article by filmmaker Martin Arnaldo, it was during their honeymoon sometime between 1886 and 1887 in Venice that Luna painted the “Sorpendido.” And the artwork seems to parallel the life of Luna with his wife and his mother-in- law Doña Juliana Gorricho Pardo de Tavera.

“The boatman of ‘Sorprendidos,’ who is perhaps actually a flower vendor, faces a similar social divide,” Arnaldo wrote. “Like Luna, he is someone who works hard with his hands, steering his boat with his pole. He is the lowest figure in the frame, although the lady in red, who is perched on higher ground, stoops down almost to his height. He crouches slightly forward and whispers intimately into her ear, when they are caught as if in flagrante delicto by the older woman.”

This painting along with other rare and important works of art will be on the spotlight in the Leon Gallery Asian Cultural Council Auction 2021, at 2 p.m. on Feb. 27, 2021, Saturday, at the Eurovilla I G/F showrooms at Rufino corner Legazpi Streets, Legaspi Village, Makati City.

“Once in a rare while, the auction gods smile upon us—and treasure after treasure appears. I am thrilled to say that exactly that moment is upon us,” says Leon Gallery director Jaime L. Ponce de Leon. “It is with no exaggeration that I am happy to announce that the present sale is among the most prestigious and most covetable, full of masterpieces from every era.”

Headlining the lots are three exquisite works by 19th century masters.  Along with Luna’s “Sorperendidos” is “Views of Manila” by Jose Honorato Lozano (1815/1821-1885) is a fabulous watercolor gallery of portraits of the old Manila that was lost through history’s merciless march. Another is “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.

‘Views of Manila’ by Jose Honorato Lozano
‘Côte de Bretagne’ by Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo

As all Asian Cultural Council Auctions are, there’s a generous selection of works by Philippine National Artists, all with impeccable provenance. Present in the auction are “Self-Portrait” from the J. V. Cruz Collection by Vicente Manansala (1910-1981), “Flame Tree” by Fernando Amorsolo (1892-1972), “Side Show” by H. R. Ocampo (1911-1978), “Habagat” by Cesar Legaspi (1917-1994), and “Variations on Sabel” by BenCab (b.1942) from the Eugenio M Lopez Jr. Collection.

‘Flame Tree’ by Fernando Amorsolo
“Variations on Sabel” by BenCab

Featured too are contemporary masters whose exceptional masterpieces on the block deviate from their usual auction house offerings. Works such as “Untitled” by Juvenal Sanso (b. 1929), “Baclaran” by Emmanuel Garibay (b.1962), and “Dog” by Ronald Ventura (b.1973) bring dark, modern, and surrealist flair at the art event.

Special mention goes to “Tahanan” by Max Balatbat (b.1978) and two religious icons highlight the lot of fabulous antiques: The Bulto of Maria Magdalena from the Benito J Legarda Jr Collection and The Sagrada Familia (The Holy Family).

The Sagrada Familia

The auction will be livestreamed on the same date at 2 p.m. on Facebook and YouTube.

For more information and to register to bid online or by phone, contact +632 88578721, [email protected] or visit www.leon-exchange.com.