Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Juan Luna y Novicio (1857–1899), Filipino painter and revolutionary. Juan Luna y Novicio was the older brother of Antonio Luna (1866–1899), a general of the Filipino forces during the Philippine-American War. Juan learned the rudiments of painting under Don Agustin Saez. He became a sailor, and his sea travels inspired him to continue pursuing painting. He enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Manila under the tutelage of Don Lorenzo Guerrero and further trained in Spain under Don Alejo Vera.

In 1884, his masterpiece, Spolarium, won first prize at the National Exposition of Fine Arts in Madrid. His friend Dr. Jose Rizal, national hero of the Phillipines after his execution in 1896, praised his success as a triumph of Filipino talent in the face of Spanish prejudice toward Filipinos. Juan created other notable paintings in the academic style such as Daphne and Cleo, Death of Cleopatra, Las Damas Romanas (The Roman Women), Españas y Filipinas (Spain and the Philippines), Peuple et Roi (Purple and Red), Vanidad (Vanity), Inocencia (Innocence), and El Pacto de Sangre (The Blood Compact).

In 1885, he moved to Paris and in the following year married a woman belonging to the prominent Pardo de Tavera family. In 1892, he was arrested for murdering his wife because of her infidelity but was eventually released on the grounds of insanity, as the judge in the case felt that because Luna was such a talented artist, it was a shame to send him to prison. In 1894, he returned to the Philippines, and two years later, he and his brother Antonio were arrested for allegedly conspiring to overthrow the colonial government. They were pardoned in 1897, and days after their release, they left for Europe.

During the Philippine-American War (1899–1901), Juan served as a diplomatic agent for Emilio Aguinaldo, the president of the fledging Philippine Republic. While stopping at Hong Kong on his way home, he died from a heart attack and was buried there. Afterward his remains were brought to the Philippines and interred at San Agustin Church.

Further Reading

Cruz, E. Aguilar. (1975) Luna. Manila, Philippines: Department of Public Information.

Da Silva, Carlos. (1997) Juan Luna y Novicio, First Internationally Known Filipino Painter. Manila, Philippines: National Historical Institute.

Ocampo, Ambeth. (1990) Rizal without the Overcoat. Pasig City, Philippines: Anvil.

Pilar, Santiago. (1980) Juan Luna: The Filipino As Painter. Manila, Philippines: Eugenio Lopez Foundation.

Quirino, Carlos. (1992) Juan Luna. Manila, Philippines: Tahanan Books for Young Readers.

——. (1995) "Luna, Juan." In Who's Who in Philippine History. Manila, Philippines: Tahanan Books, 133.

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