Philippine arts

Juan Luna’s bronze bust officially turned over to National Museum

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Juan Luna’s bronze bust officially turned over to National Museum

HOME. Juan Luna's bronze bust by Spanish sculptor Mariano Benlliure finds a permanent home at the National Museum


The historical bronze bust of the painter was supposed to be up for auction in September before the National Museum's appeal

MANILA, Philippines – The MIB Capital Corporation has officially turned over the bronze bust of Filipino artist Juan Luna to the National Museum on Tuesday, October 10. The ceremony was held at the Spoliarium Hall of the National Museum of Fine Arts in Manila. 

Created by Spanish sculptor Mariano Benlliure, The Bust of Juan Luna y Novicio was believed to have been sold by a mambabakal to sculptor Irineo Cristobal for P5. The artwork eventually found itself in the hands of artist and antique store owner Elsie “Inday” Cadapan, who sold it to the MIB Capital Corporation in 1979.

This year, the MIB Capital Corporation then decided to auction it off at Salcedo Auctions’ “The Well-Appointed Life” auction on September 16.

“Since the owners’ acquisition of the piece, there have been no claims of ownership by the National Museum or any other private or public institution despite the fact that it had been featured on the cover of Chronicle Magazine in 1967, and was cataloged by the Filipinas Heritage Library. Hence, the decision to put the bust up for auction,” Salcedo Auctions said in its September 15 announcement. 

However, just a day before the event took place, the auction house announced that it would no longer be selling the historical artwork after receiving an appeal from the National Museum. 

“The decision to withdraw the bust from the auction is done with profound respect and a deep sense of responsibility to preserving and protecting our nation’s cultural heritage,” the auction house’s Chairman Richie Lerma said. 

The Bust of Juan Luna y Novicio’s creator, Benlliure, was Luna’s friend who he had met in Rome. According to Salcedo Auctions publicist Devi De Veyra, records have shown that Vicente Palmori, the Consul General of Spain, had commissioned Mariano and his artist brother Juan Antonio to create art pieces modeled after Luna for gifting to American Governor General Leonard Wood. 

Mariano’s bronze Luna bust was then displayed at Quiapo’s Philippine Library and Museum and was later transferred to the National Library. It was believed to have been lost during the Battle of Manila in 1945, along with Juan Antonio’s replica of Luna’s Spoliarium. 

While it is still unknown if the bust that was gifted to Wood was the same one that the mambabakal sold to Cristobal, the Mariano Benlliure Foundation has confirmed the authenticity of the bronze bust that is now owned by the National Museum. –

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