Juan Luna
Juan Luna y Novicio was an Ilocano
Ilocano people
The Ilocano or Ilokano people are the third largest Filipino ethnolinguistic group. Aside from being referred to as Ilocanos, from "i"-from, and "looc"-bay, they also refer to themselves as Samtoy, from the Ilocano phrase "sao mi ditoy", meaning 'our language here.' The word "Ilocano" came from...

Filipino people
The Filipino people or Filipinos are an Austronesian ethnic group native to the islands of the Philippines. There are about 92 million Filipinos in the Philippines, and about 11 million living outside the Philippines ....

 painter, sculptor and a political activist of the Philippine Revolution
Philippine Revolution
The Philippine Revolution , called the "Tagalog War" by the Spanish, was an armed military conflict between the people of the Philippines and the Spanish colonial authorities which resulted in the secession of the Philippine Islands from the Spanish Empire.The Philippine Revolution began in August...

 during the late 19th century. He became one of the first recognized Philippine artists.

His winning the gold medal in the 1884 Madrid Exposition of Fine Arts, along with the silver win of fellow Filipino painter Félix Resurrección Hidalgo
Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo
Félix Resurrección Hidalgo y Padilla was a Filipino artist. He is acknowledged as one of the great Filipino painters of the late 19th century, and is significant in Philippine history for having been an acquaintance and inspiration for members of the Philippine reform movement which included José...

, prompted a celebration which was a major highlight in the memoirs of members of the Propaganda Movement
Propaganda Movement
The Propaganda Movement was a literary and cultural organization formed in 1872 by Filipino émigrés who had settled in Europe. Composed of Filipino liberals exiled in 1872 and students attending Europe's universities, the organization aimed to increase Spanish awareness of the needs of its colony,...

, with the fellow Ilustrado
The Ilustrados constituted the Filipino educated class during the Spanish colonial period in the late 19th century....

toasting to the two painters' good health and citing their win as evidence that Filipinos and Spaniards were equals.

Regarded for work done in the manner of the Spanish
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 academies of his time, Luna painted literary and historical scenes, some with an underscore of political commentary. His allegorical works were inspired with classical balance, and often showed figures in theatrical poses.

Early life

Born in the town of Badoc, Ilocos Norte
Ilocos Norte
Ilocos Norte is a province of the Philippines located in the Ilocos Region in Luzon. Its capital is Laoag City and is located at the northwest corner of Luzon Island, bordering Cagayan and Apayao to the east, and Abra and Ilocos Sur to the south...

 in the northern Philippines, Juan Luna was the third among the seven children of Don Joaquin Luna and Doña Laureana Novicio y Ancheta. In 1861, the Luna family moved to Manila
Manila is the capital of the Philippines. It is one of the sixteen cities forming Metro Manila.Manila is located on the eastern shores of Manila Bay and is bordered by Navotas and Caloocan to the north, Quezon City to the northeast, San Juan and Mandaluyong to the east, Makati on the southeast,...

 and he went to Ateneo Municipal de Manila
Ateneo de Manila University
The Ateneo de Manila University is a private teaching and research university run by the Society of Jesus in the Philippines. It began in 1859 when the City of Manila handed control of the Escuela Municipal de Manila in Intramuros, Manila, to the Jesuits...

 where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 degree. He excelled in painting and drawing, and was influenced by his brother, Manuel Luna, who, according to Filipino patriot José Rizal
José Rizal
José Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda , was a Filipino polymath, patriot and the most prominent advocate for reform in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial era. He is regarded as the foremost Filipino patriot and is listed as one of the national heroes of the Philippines by...

, was a better painter than Juan himself.

Luna enrolled at Escuela Nautica de Manila (now Philippine Merchant Marine Academy
Philippine Merchant Marine Academy
The Philippine Merchant Marine Academy is a premiere merchant marine academy in the Philippines. Operated by the Filipino government under the supervision of the Commission on Higher Education , the academy is located in San Narciso, in the province of Zambales. Students are called midshipmen but...

) and became a sailor. He took drawing lessons under the illustrious painting teacher Lorenzo Guerrero of Ermita, Manila
Ermita, Manila
Ermita is a district of Manila, Philippines located halfway between Intramuros and Malate.-History:Ermita was founded in the late 16th century...

. He also enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts (Academia de Dibujo y Pintura) in Manila where he was influenced and taught how to draw by the Spanish artist Agustin Saez. Unfortunately, Luna's vigorous brush strokes displeased his teacher and Luna was discharged from the Academy. However, Guerrero was impressed by his skill and urged Luna to travel to Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 to further pursue his studies.

Travel abroad

In 1877 Manuel and Juan Luna traveled to Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, where Manuel studied music and Juan painting. Juan entered the Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, where he befriended the painter Don Alejo Vera
Alejo Vera
Alejo Vera was a Spanish painter....

. Luna was discontented with the style of teaching in school and decided that it would be much better to work with Vera. Vera brought him to Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 for some of his commissions, and Luna was exposed to the art of the Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 painters. It was in 1878 when his artistic talents was established with the opening of the first art exposition in Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

 which was called the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Demonstration of Beautiful Arts). From then on, Luna became engrossed in painting and produced a collection of paintings that he exhibited in the 1881 Exposition.

His La Muerte de Cleopatra (The Death of Cleopatra
The Death of Cleopatra
The Death of Cleopatra , also known simply as Cleopatra, is an 1881 painting made by the award-winning Filipino painter and hero Juan Luna. The famous painting was a silver medalist or second prize winner during the 1881 National Exposition of Fine Arts in Madrid...

) won him a silver medal and came in second place. Luna's growing reputation as an artist led to a pensionado (pension) scholarship at 600 pesos annually through the Ayuntamiento of Manila. The condition was that he was obliged to develop a painting which captured the essence of Philippine history which would then become the Ayuntamiento's property.

As an artist

In 1883 Luna started the painting demanded of him by the Ayuntamiento
Ayuntamiento In other languages of Spain:*Catalan/Valencian .*Galician .*Basque . is the general term for the council of a municipality, or sometimes the municipality itself, in Spain and Latin America. Historically Ayuntamiento was often preceded by the word excelentísimo , when referring to...

. In May 1884, he shipped the large canvas
Canvas is an extremely heavy-duty plain-woven fabric used for making sails, tents, marquees, backpacks, and other items for which sturdiness is required. It is also popularly used by artists as a painting surface, typically stretched across a wooden frame...

 of the Spoliarium
The Spoliarium is a painting by Filipino artist Juan Luna. The painting was submitted by Luna to the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884, where it garnered a gold medal. In 1886, it was sold to the Diputación Provincial de Barcelona for 20,000 pesetas...

 to Madrid for the year's Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes. He was the first recipient of the three gold medals awarded in the exhibition and Luna gained recognition among the connoisseurs and art critics present. On June 25, 1884, Filipino and Spanish nobles organized an event celebrating Luna's win in the exhibition. That evening, Rizal prepared a speech for his friend, addressing the two significant things of his art work, which included the glorification of genius and the grandeur of his artistic skills.

Luna developed a friendly relationship with the King of Spain and was later commissioned by the Spanish Senate to paint a large canvas which was called the La Batalla de Lepanto (The Battle of Lepanto). He moved to Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 in 1885 where he opened his own studio and befriended Hidalgo. A year after, he finished the piece El Pacto de Sangre (The Blood Compact) in accordance with the agreement he had with the Ayuntamiento of Manila. Depicted in this piece was the blood compact
Blood compact
Blood compact was a ritual in the Philippines where tribes would cut their wrist and pour their blood into a cup filled with liquid and drink each other's blood as part of the tribal tradition to seal a friendship, a pact or treaty, or to validate an agreement...

 ceremony between the Datu Sikatuna
Datu Sikatuna
Datu Sikatuna was the Datu in the island of Bohol in the Philippines. His real name was "Katuna" but "Si" was added to his name as this is a nominative marker for a Filipino...

, one of the lords in Bohol island, and the Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi
Miguel López de Legazpi
Miguel López de Legazpi , also known as El Adelantado and El Viejo , was a Spanish conquistador who established one of the first European settlements in the East Indies and the Pacific Islands in 1565. He is the first Governor-General in the Philippines...

. It is now displayed in the Malacañang Palace
Malacañang Palace
The Malacañan Palace, commonly known simply as Malacañang, is the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the Philippines. Located at 1000 J. P. Laurel Street, San Miguel, Manila, the house was built in 1750 in Spanish Colonial style. It has been the residence of every...

. He also sent two other paintings in addition to the one required; the second canvas sent to Manila was a portrait of López de Legazpi reconstructed by Luna from his recollection of a similar portrait he saw in the hall of the Cabildo
Cabildo (council)
For a discussion of the contemporary Spanish and Latin American cabildo, see Ayuntamiento.A cabildo or ayuntamiento was a former Spanish, colonial administrative council that governed a municipality. Cabildos were sometimes appointed, sometimes elected, but were considered to be representative of...

, and the third was of Governor-general Ramón Blanco y Erenas
Ramón Blanco y Erenas
Ramón Blanco y Erenas, marqués de Peña Plata was a Spanish brigadier and colonial administrator. Born in San Sebastián, he was sent to the Caribbean in 1858 and governed Cuba and Santo Domingo...


In 1887, Luna once again traveled back to Spain to enter in that year's Exposition two of his pieces, the La Batalla de Lepanto and Rendición de Granada (Surrender of Granada), which both won in the exhibition. He celebrated his triumph with his friends in Madrid with Graciano López-Jaena delivered Luna a congratulatory speech. Luna's paintings are generally described as being vigorous and dramatic. With its elements of Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

, his style shows the influence of Delacroix
Eugène Delacroix
Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix was a French Romantic artist regarded from the outset of his career as the leader of the French Romantic school...

, Rembrandt, and Daumier.


On December 8, 1886, Luna married Maria de la Paz Pardo de Tavera, a sister of his friend Felix and Trinidad Pardo de Tavera. The couple traveled to Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 and Rome and settled in Paris. They had one son, whom they named Andrés, and a daughter nicknamed Bibi who died in infancy. Luna was fond of painting his wife. However, the jealous Luna frequently accused Paz of having an affair with a certain Monsieur Dussaq. Finally in a fit of jealousy, he killed his wife and mother-in-law and wounded his brother-in-law, Felix, on September 23, 1892. He was arrested and murder charges were filed against him.

Luna was acquitted of charges on February 8, 1893, on grounds of temporary insanity; the "unwritten law" at the time forgave men for killing unfaithful wives. He was ordered to pay the Pardo de Taveras a sum of one thousand six hundred fifty one francs and eighty three cents, and an additional twenty five francs for postage, in addition to the interest of damages. Five days later, Luna went to Madrid with his brother, Antonio Luna
Antonio Luna
Antonio Luna y Novicio was a Filipino pharmacist and general who fought in the Philippine-American War. He was also the founder of the Philippines's first military academy.- Family background :...

, and his son, Andrés.

Final years

In 1891 Luna moved back to the Philippines and traveled to Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 in 1896, returning during the Philippine Revolution of the Cry of Balintawak. Unfortunately, on September 16, 1896, he and his brother Antonio Luna
Antonio Luna
Antonio Luna y Novicio was a Filipino pharmacist and general who fought in the Philippine-American War. He was also the founder of the Philippines's first military academy.- Family background :...

 were arrested by Spanish authorities for being involved with the Katipunan
The Katipunan was a Philippine revolutionary society founded by anti-Spanish Filipinos in Manila in 1892, whose primary aim was to gain independence from Spain through revolution. The society was initiated by Filipino patriots Andrés Bonifacio, Teodoro Plata, Ladislao Diwa, and others on the night...

 rebel army. Despite his imprisonment, Luna was still able to produce a work of art which he gave to a visiting priest. He was pardoned by the Spanish courts on May 27, 1897 and was released from prison and he traveled back to Spain. In 1898, he was appointed by the executive board of the Philippine revolutionary government as a member of the Paris delegation which was working for the diplomatic recognition of the República Filipina (Philippine Republic). In 1899, upon the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1898)
Treaty of Paris (1898)
The Treaty of Paris of 1898 was signed on December 10, 1898, at the end of the Spanish-American War, and came into effect on April 11, 1899, when the ratifications were exchanged....

, Luna was named a member of the delegation to Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 to press for the recognition of the Philippine government.

He traveled back to the Philippines in December 1899 upon hearing of the murder of his brother Antonio by the Kawit Battalion in Cabanatuan. On December 7, 1899, Luna suffered a heart attack and died there. His remains were buried in Hong Kong and in 1920 were exhumed and kept in Andrés Luna's house, to be later transferred to a niche at the Crypt of the San Agustin Church
San Agustin Church
San Agustin Church may refer to:*Cathedral of San Agustin in Laredo, Texas*San Agustin Church, Manila in Manila, Philippines*Iglesia San Agustín, Chile...

in the Philippines. Five years later, Juan would be reinstated as a world renowned artist and Peuple et Rois
Peuple et Rois
Peuple et Rois is the French title of an 1892 painting by award-winning Filipino painter and hero Juan Luna. Finished in the academic style of painting, Luna intended to send and enter Peuple et Rois for the 1892 Chicago Universal Exposition in the United States, but the plan was aborted due to a...

his last major work, was acclaimed the best entry to the Saint Louis World's Fair
Louisiana Purchase Exposition
The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, informally known as the Saint Louis World's Fair, was an international exposition held in St. Louis, Missouri, United States in 1904.- Background :...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Unfortunately some of his paintings were destroyed by fire in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...



  • Manuel, Arsenio. Dictionary of Philippine Biography, Volume II. Manila: Regal Printing Company, 1970.
  • Ocampo, Ambeth R. "Juan Luna's Works." Philippine Daily Inquirer, 24 October 2007.
  • Sevilla, José N. Sa Langit ng Bayang Pilipinas. Mga Dakilang Pilpino o Ang Kaibigan ng mga Nag-aaral. Manila: Limbagan nina Sevilla at mga kapatid at Kn., 1922.

External links

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