THE NATIONAL MUSEUM Part I: The Art

Neither of us had been to the National Museum of the Philippines in years. Since we’ve been hearing good things on recent developments from friends, we decided to head for the National Art Gallery. We didn’t arrange for a tour guide, and instead simply walked into the Old Legislative Building on Taft Avenue so we can see the collections at our own pace.

Angel by Guillermo E. Tolentino
Angel by Guillermo E. Tolentino

The titan of the museum’s collection is of course Juan Luna’s Spoliarium. We entered the Old House of Representatives Hall, walked around a divider graced with Guillermo Tolentino’s angelic sculpture, and came face to face with Luna’s greatest, and certainly largest, masterpiece. The Spoliarium shared this massive hall with just one more painting by another master – La Tragedia de Gobernador Bustamante by Luna’s friend Felix Ressureccion Hidalgo.

The Spoliarium by Juan Luna
The Spoliarium by Juan Luna
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La Tragedia de Gobernador Bustamante by Felix Ressureccion Hidalgo

In a different hall, based on the widest fenced area separating it from the public in the entire building, is one more obviously important work – The Parisian Life, also by Luna.

The Parisian Life also known as Interior d’Un Café by Juan Luna
The Parisian Life also known as Interior d’Un Café by Juan Luna

 Aside from these valuable, historical masterpieces, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the museum’s extensive, meticulously organized and well-curated collections, had so much more to offer.

Fernando Amorsolo's last painting
Fernando Amorsolo’s unfinished painting
Nearly 100 works by Juan Luna
Nearly 100 paintings and sketches by Juan Luna

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Mural series by Vicente Manansala
Mural series by Vicente Manansala

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Shot glasses for gouache paint holders used by Malang as a mixing plate
Shot glasses for gouache paint holders used by Malang as a mixing plate
Personalities by Federico Aguilar Alcuaz
Personalities by Federico Aguilar Alcuaz
Las Lavanderas by Fernando Amorsolo
Las Lavanderas by Fernando Amorsolo
The GSIS collection of  Vicente Manansala and Hernando R. Ocampo's paintings
The GSIS collection of Vicente Manansala and Hernando R. Ocampo’s paintings
A collection of christian themed art during the Spanish rule from the 17th to 19th centuries
A collection of Christian-themed art during the Spanish era from the 17th to 19th centuries

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Basi Revolt Paintings by Esteban Pichay Villanueva
Basi Revolt Paintings by Esteban Pichay Villanueva
Esteban Pichay Villanueva’s signature
Esteban Pichay Villanueva’s signature

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The most fragile room in the museum
The most fragile room in the museum!

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Sculptures by Guillermo E. Tolentino
Sculptures by Guillermo E. Tolentino

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We sighed at Guillermo Tolentino’s maquettes for a glorious Commonwealth Triumphal Arch that was never built. We felt a chill in our spines at the dark, green Hall that held work depicting the Second World War and its aftermath. We were impressed by Fernando Amorsolo’s work, and his meticulous studies with penciled notes. We were wowed by the grandeur of Botong Francisco’s The Progress of Medicine in the Philippines, as well as the great effort to save it for future generations.

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Post World War II art
Post World War II art
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Post World War II art
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Amorsolo’s pencil sketches and notes.
The Progress of Medicine in the Philippines by Botong Francisco
The Progress of Medicine in the Philippines by Botong Francisco

IMG_5956To be concluded in Part II, which will cover the National Museum’s own architecture.

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