Amanda R. Arevalo
3 December 2012
Master Painter of the Golden Age
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born on 15 July
1606 in Leiden, in the Dutch Republic, now known as Netherlands.
He was the ninth child born to Harmen Gerritszoon van Rijn and
Neeltgen Willemsdochter van Zuytbrouck. His family was quite
well-to-do. His father was a miller and his mother was a baker's
He attended Latin school, during his younger years, and was enrolled at the University
of Leiden two months before his fourteenth birthday. There, he learned the classics such as
grammar, roman mythology, and drawing. He had a greater inclination towards painting and
the university bored. Soon, he became an apprentice to a Leiden history painter, Jacob van
Swanenburgh, with whom he spent three years.
After a brief but important apprenticeship of six months with the famous painter Pieter
Lastman in Amsterdam, Rembrandt stayed a few months with Jacob Pinas and then decided to
put up his own workshop. In 1624 Rembrandt opened a studio in Leiden with his friend and
colleague Jan Lievens. Three years later, in 1627, they began to accept students, among
them Gerrit Douwho went on to be a famous painter in that area.
Sometime in 1629, Rembrandt was discovered by the statesman Constantijn Huygens,
the father of Christiaan Huygens, a famous Dutch mathematician and physicist, who procured
for Rembrandt important commissions from the court of The Hague. As a result of this
connection, Prince Frederik Hendrik continued to purchase paintings from Rembrandt until
1646 and his reputation increased steadily.
Rembrandt’s father died in April 1630 and by the end of 1631 Rembrandt moved to
Amsterdam, which was rapidly expanding as the new business capital of the Netherlands, and
began to practice as a professional portraitist for the first time, with great success. He moved in
with an art dealer, Hendrick van Uylenburg, and initially stayed with him.
Four years later, in 1634, Rembrandt married Hendrick's
cousin, Saskia van Uylenburg, at the local church of St.
Annaparochie, without the presence of Rembrandt's relatives.
That same year, Rembrandt became burgess of Amsterdam
and a member of the local guild of painters. He also acquired a
number of students, among them Ferdinand Bol and Govert
Saskia van Uylenburg
Saskia came from a good family. Her father had been lawyer
and burgemeester (mayor) of Leeuwarden. When Saskia, as the
youngest daughter, became an orphan, she lived with an older
sister in Het Bildt.
In 1635 Rembrandt and Saskia moved into their own
house, renting in fashionable Nieuwe Doelenstraat. In 1639
they moved to a prominent house, now the Rembrandt House
Museum, in the Jodenbreestraat in what was becoming the
Jewish quarter. The mortgage to finance the 13,000 guilder
purchase would be a primary cause for later financial
difficulties. Rembrandt should easily have been able to pay the
house off with his large income, but it appears his spending
always kept pace with his income, and he may have made some
unsuccessful investments. It was there that Rembrandt
frequently sought his Jewish neighbors to model for his Old
Rembrandt’s house in
Amsterdam, bought in 1639
and now known as the
Rembrandt House Museum
Although affluent by now
affluent, the couple
suffered several personal setbacks. Their son Rumbartus
died two months after his birth in 1635 and their
daughter Cornelia died at just three weeks of age in
1638. In 1640, they had a second daughter, also named
Cornelia, who died after living barely over a month. Only
their fourth child, Titus, who was born in 1641, survived
Rembrandt’s son Titus
Saskia died in 1642 soon after Titus's birth, from
tuberculosis. Rembrandt's drawings of her on her death
bed are among his most moving works.
During Saskia's illness, Geertje Dircx was hired as Titus'
caretaker and nurse. She became Rembrandt’s lover and later
charge Rembrandt with breach of promise. She was awarded
alimony of 200 guilders a year. Rembrandt worked to have her
committed for twelve years to an asylum or poorhouse, called a
"bridewell", at Gouda, after learning she had pawned jewelry
that once belonged to Saskia and that he had given to her.
In the late 1640s Rembrandt began a relationship with
the much younger Hendrickje Stoffels, who had initially been
his maid. In 1654 they had a daughter, Cornelia, bringing
Hendrickje a summons from the Reformed Church to answer the
charge that she had committed the acts of a whore with Rembrandt the painter. She admitted
this and was banned from receiving communion. Rembrandt was not summoned to appear for
the Church council because he was not a member of the Reformed Church. The two were
considered legally wed under common law, but Rembrandt had not married Henrickje, so as
not to lose access to a trust set up for Titus in Saskia’s will.
Rembrandt lived beyond his means, buying art, including
bidding up his own work, prints, often used in his
paintings, and rarities, which caused a court arrangement
to avoid his bankruptcy in 1656, by selling most of his
paintings and large collection of antiquities. The result of
the sales in 1657 and 1658 were disappointing.
Rembrandt was forced to sell his house and his printingpress and move to more modest accommodation on the
Rozengracht in 1660. The authorities and his creditors
were generally accommodating to him, except for the
Amsterdam painters' guild, who introduced a new rule
that no one in Rembrandt's circumstances could trade as a
painter. To get round this and make a living, Hendrickje
and Titus set up a business as art-dealers and opened an
art gallery in 1660, with Rembrandt as an employee. They
sold Rembrandt’s paintings as well as those by other artists and made a modest living doing
In 1661 the new business was contracted to complete work for the newly built city hall,
but only after Govert Flinck, the artist previously commissioned, died without beginning to
paint. The resulting work, The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis, was
rejected and returned. It was around this time that Rembrandt
took on his last
apprentice, Aert de Gelder.
When Hendrickje died in 1963, Rembrandt continued to
operate the gallery. In 1968, his son Titus was married, and as fate
would have it, Titus died six months later. Tutus’ wife gave birth
to a baby girl, and Rembrandt was named the Godfather.
Rembrandt moved in with his daughter-in-law. There, he painted
one of his last works, The Prodigal Son.
Marker in Westerkerk,
Rembrandt died soon after the completion of this painting
and within a year of his son, on October 4, 1669. He is buried is Amsterdam in an unmarked
grave the Westerkerk.
A prolific painter, draftsman, and etcher, Rembrandt is usually regarded as the greatest
artist of Holland's "Golden Age." He studied briefly with the influential history painter Pieter
Lastman and although he never went abroad, he voraciously surveyed the work of Northern
artists who had lived in Italy, like Lastman, the Utrecht painter Gerrit van Honthorst, Anthony
van Dyck, and—mostly through prints—Adam Elsheimer and Peter Paul Rubens.
In the Leiden period, Rembrandt also responded strongly to earlier Netherlandish artists
such as Lucas van Leyden. However, a crucial aspect of Rembrandt's development was his
intense study of people, objects, and their surroundings "from life," as is obvious in paintings
like his early self-portraits and the Saint Paul in Prison of 1627. Even by Dutch standards,
Rembrandt's preoccupation with direct observation was exceptional and continued throughout
his career. Despite the constant evolution of his style, Rembrandt's compelling descriptions of
light, space, atmosphere, modeling, texture, and human situations may be traced back even
from his late works, such as The Jewish Bride, to the foundations of his Leiden years.
Rembrandt was assisted in securing commissions by the Mennonite art dealer Hendrick
Uylenburgh, whose cousin Saskia married Rembrandt in 1634. The Mennonites advocated
personal interpretation of scripture, which probably influenced Rembrandt's subjective and
often moving treatment of biblical subjects. Rembrandt exudes confidence and urbanity in
his Self-Portrait of 1640, which was modeled upon courtly portraits by Raphael and Titian.
In the 1640s, Rembrandt's frequently theatrical
style of the previous decade gave way to a more
contemplative manner, a mature example of which
is Aristotle with a Bust of Homer. The change
reflects period taste but also personal
circumstances, such as Saskia's death in 1642,
financial problems, and the artist's controversial
relationship with his son's nurse, Geertje Dircks.
The great group portrait known as The Night
Watch dated 1642 could be said to mark the end
of Rembrandt's most successful years.
The Night Watch
Famous for its large size of 11’10” x 14’4”,
effective utilization of chiaroscuro
(light and shadow balance), and its
portrayal of motion.
The term chiaroscuro refers to a strong, selfconscious juxtaposition of light and shade, which
results in a stunning visual effect in a work of art.
The technique was initially pioneered by Leonardo
da Vinci, further developed by Caravaggio, and
finally perfected by Rembrandt. Over the course of his career, Rembrandt consistently
deployed chiaroscuro to produce some of the most visually arresting and psychologically
evocative paintings in the history of art. By way of this technique for contrasting and
manipulating light and shadow, Rembrandt was able to achieve three specific effects which
have become trademarks of his style : dramatic intensity, rhythmic visual harmony,
and psychological depth.
The use of chiaroscuro to achieve a dramatic intensification of action or atmospheric
mood is something that Rembrandt learned from his study of Da Vinci and Caravaggio. By
placing the point of greatest illumination on a central, active figure, and simultaneously muting
elements of the background, Rembrandt and his Italian predecessors could focus the viewer's
attention onto a specific action in a manner similar to the way in which stage-lighting functions
in the theater. Furthermore, Rembrandt's calculated manipulation of light and shadow
frequently creates atmospheric moods surrounding his figures, thereby imbuing them with a
sense of glowing enthusiasm, or a sense of gloom and mystery.
At the same time, the rhythmic visual harmony of light and shadow that is characteristic
of many of Rembrandt's best known subject paintings can create a sense of pattern and a sense
of movement. In such paintings as The Nightwatch, Rembrandt's canvas is rippled with
contrapuntal rhythms of lighting, giving rise to a visual poetry of deep shadows alternating with
rich and luxuriant highlights of color. Here, the viewer is not so much urged to read meaningful
content into the dynamic patterns of light and shade, but rather simply to delight in the formal,
quasi-musical arrangements of such patterns.
One of his most famous paintings, The Blinding of Samson, was painted in 1636. The
story of the painting is taken from the Bible. Samson is a very strong man, and the source of his
strength is his hair. He tells this woman that woos him into loving her, and she cuts it off. She
runs to her buddies, and they gauge his eyes out. The theatricality of this piece is amazing. The
chiaroscuro forces the surrounding picture to be dark, and kind of curtain for the stage which is
set up in the center. There, the light bursts through, showing Samson being blinded by a less
worthy individual, Philistine. Delilah, the girl who tricked him, is in the back rushing into the
cave to watch. Rembrandt is considered a Baroque artist because of the use of chiaroscuro, and
the dramatic events portrayed in his work.
Although it is difficult to define one Rembrandt painting as better than another, several
of his works have reached immortal fame. Aside from the Night Watch and the Blinding of
Samson, here are some of his universally transcending works :
The Anatomy Lecture of Dr. Nicholaes Tulp (1632)
This famous Rembrandt painting depicts a doctor
named Tulp demonstrating an autopsy to several men
who are gathered around him. The focal point of the
painting is the patient. Rembrandt utilized his skill in
using colors strategically to draw attention to the body
lying on the table and to significant areas. Although the
painting depicts the study of death, Rembrandt was
careful to add a heightened sense of emotionalism and
sensitivity to a scene that could be otherwise cold and
Danae is a painting that depicts the character Danae
from Greek mythology. Many artists felt attracted to
this legend to reproduce the ideal of female beauty,
but only Rembrandt preferred to reflect the passion
felt by a woman on seeing her lover, not the physical
beauty of an idealized woman. He gave the figure of
Danae a female face and body. The naked figures
depicted by Rembrandt are a proof of the sensuality
and tenderness presented by this passionate artist. Rembrandt did not produce many
nude paintings. It is probable that the Puritan environment around him repressed his
The Jewish Bride (1666)
The picture of Isaac and Rebecca (The Jewish Bride) has
been the subject of many interpretations. The name The
Jewish Bride refers to the long-held view that the
picture portrayed the Jewish father of a bride bidding
farewell to his daughter. The strength of this picture,
the factor responsible for its effect, is seen in the colors
themselves. The red color-tone of Rebecca's dress, one
example of the effects generally achieved through color, is unusually strongly broken,
interspersed with dark brown, almost black, particles, but also partially brightened
through the use of yellow, and also of white in some places. The fine, varnished texture,
partly opaque in nature, partly shimmering through, reveals brush- and spatula-marks.
When seen from a few paces away, this weave of color merges before the observer's
gaze, albeit without becoming completely uniform. From an objective point of view, the
dark and bright parts could be interpreted as the play of light and shade among the fall
of the folds of Rebecca's dress, and as the heaviness and softness of the material, as
with velvet, for example, which does not fall smoothly and either shimmers in the light
or allows one's gaze to sink somewhat into its surface.
The Return of the Prodigal Son (1669)
This piece is the most monumental of Rembrandt's
paintings and stands above the achievements of all
other Baroque artists of the time in its evocation of mood
and human tenderness. Rembrandt painted this
masterpiece towards the end of his career, but it is
obvious that his skill in realism had not faded. Critics of
this piece remark that age had only brought Rembrandt a
heightened sense of psychological and spiritual insight.
The artist's use of expressive lighting and coloring in this
painting along with the most simple of settings help the audience to feel the full impact
of the event. Wanting to depict a tired and defeated son returning home to his father,
Rembrandt compassionately painted the outstretched arms of a man happy to see his
son return to him. The painting is symbolic of homecoming and illuminates the human
willingness to offer shelter to those who have experienced darkness.
The “underrated genius” myth arose mainly out of the criticism of Rembrandt's art that
was expressed after his death by some of his largely younger peers. On the face of it, a
significant number of 17th-century writings seem to have portrayed Rembrandt in an
unfavorable light. He was said to be a heretic in the field of painting or an artist who, with his
use of impasto, a locally applied thick paint, painted with “dung.” Such criticisms should be
examined in light of the rise of Classicism imported from France, which had brought about a
radical change in taste over the course of Rembrandt's later life. Rembrandt's drastic and
uncompromising realism had no place in the universalizing and idealizing approach of
Classicism. For example, von Sandrart, writing in 1675, was judging Rembrandt by the new
Adhering to the practice Rembrandt had adopted, he was prepared to challenge
our rules of art, of anatomy, human proportions and perspective, arguing against
the use of antique sculptures, against Raphael's and the systematic training of
young artists, and against the Academies, so vital to our profession, asserting
that one should rely only upon nature and observe no other rules.
Yet this criticism of Rembrandt was not an indication that his genius was underrated; on the
contrary, as Emmens writes:
The criticism leveled against Rembrandt by the writers of the 1670s makes it
clear that he was still the towering figure of an older, and now old-fashioned,
generation of Dutch painters. That is why the blows of the classicistic attack,
which could have been just as well delivered to any other painter of his
generation, all fell on his head.
Negative remarks from Rembrandt's critics were in fact almost always counterbalanced
by the highest praise. The brilliant artist and writer on art Gérard de Lairesse (1640–1711), who
met Rembrandt as a young man and was portrayed by him in 1665, confessed in 1707: “I do not
want to deny that once I had a special preference for his manner; but at that time I had hardly
begun to understand the infallible rules of art.” De Lairesse's laudatory words that follow
explain why Rembrandt was admired:
Everything that art and the brush can achieve was possible for him, and he was
the greatest painter of the time and is still unsurpassed. For, they say, was there
ever a painter who by means of color came as close to nature by his beautiful
light, lovely harmony, and unique, unusual thoughts and so forth?
Critics of his paint “The Return of the Prodigal Son” (1662), the most monumental of his
painting, remark that age had only brought Rembrandt a heightened sense of psychological and
spiritual insight. The artist’s use of expressive lighting and coloring in this painting along with
the most simple of settings help the audience to feel the full impact of the event. Wanting to
depict a tired and defeated son returning home to his father, Rembrandt compassionately
painted the outstretched arms of a man happy to see his son return to him. The painting is
symbolic of homecoming and illuminates the human willingness to offer shelter to those who
have experienced darkness.
But if criticism of Rembrandt's art became manifest only in the 1670s, how could the
sudden decline in Rembrandt's production of paintings between 1643 and 1652 then be
explained? It is impossible that, after having painted the Night Watch, Rembrandt arrived at the
awareness that he may have overstretched the possibilities of the pictorial language he had
developed over the previous two decades. It seems as though he had reached an impasse with
his spotlight effects. In the end Rembrandt's crisis was an artistic crisis. This possibility seems to
be strengthened by his apparent search for ways out of this cul-de-sac.
The great variation in style in his sparse paintings from the decade after 1642 can be
seen as an indication that Rembrandt was searching. A scene with the Holy Family (1645) is one
of Rembrandt's most striking efforts to arrive at a different approach to the function of light in
his paintings. Here, he introduced three light sources and made abundant use of light reflecting
on one surface from another. In this painting he also introduced strong color, through the
glowing red of Mary's gown. Color, which up to this point he had increasingly sacrificed to light,
now returned—usually a strong red—in the centre of some of his images, such as Jacob's
Blessing and, later, in the Jewish Bride. Compositions—which were often diagonal in early
works by Rembrandt, according to the logic of the concentrated light—were now more frontally
After creating several highly detailed images, such as The Woman Taken in
Adultery (1644) and The Supper at Emmaus (1648), Rembrandt eventually seems to have
sought the solution to his artistic “crisis” in a style grafted onto that of the late Titian, a style
that was only effective when the painting was seen from a certain distance. Rembrandt's
contribution to this Titianesque manner of painting was a deliberate use of impasto that
created a light-reflecting surface in the lighter foreground passages of his paintings. His efforts
to develop this new approach to painting started about 1645 and would bloom from the early
1650s onward. That period marks the beginning of what is usually called Rembrandt's “late
Over the years, Rembrandt painted 300 paintings, made 300 prints, and about 2,000
drawings. His goal throughout his career was to represent the “greatest and most natural
movement”. The following are some of his famous paintings :
The Stoning of Saint Stephen
The Musical Allegory
Self Portrait as a Young Man
Andromeda Chained to the Rocks
Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp
The Storm on the Sea of Galilee
The Blinding of Samson
The Night Watch
The Holy Family
Bathsheba at Her Bath
Self Portrait with Beret and Turned-Up
The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis
The Sampling Officials
The Return of the Prodigal Son
The Jewish Bride
Self Portrait with Two Circles
The first painting by Rembrandt at the age of 19
Now in the Mauritshuis, in The Hague.
Also known as “Christ in the Storm”. A painting that was in the
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum of Boston, Massachusetts,
United States, prior to being stolen on March 18, 1990.
Housed in the Museo del Prado of Madrid, Spain.
From the story of Belshazzar and the writing on the wall in the
Old Testament Book of Daniel.
It is a life-sized depiction of the character Danaë from Greek
Also knows as The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq.
Oil on canvas painting that is one of at least 40 self-portraits
painted by Rembrandt and was the first he had painted since
Also known as Bathsheba with King David's Letter.
A self-portrayal of subtle and somber qualities, a work in which
may be seen "the stresses and strains of a life compounded of
creative triumphs and personal and financial reverses
Painted when he was 54 years old. It has been noted as a work
in which may be seen "the wrinkled brow and the worried
expression the troubled condition of his mind".
Originally, the largest painting of Rembrandt, measuring around
five by five metres in the shape of a lunette.
Also called Syndics of the Drapers' Guild. It has been described
as Rembrandt’s "last great collective portrait
The most monumental of Rembrandt’s paintings and stands
above the achievements of all other Baroque artists of the time
in its evocation of mood and human tenderness. Rembrandt
painted this masterpiece towards the end of his career,
The painting gained its current name in the early 19th century,
when an Amsterdam art collector identified the subject as that
of a Jewish father bestowing a necklace upon his daughter on
her wedding day.
An oil on canvas painting where he is seen at work, holding his
palette, brushes, and maulstick.
The Greatest Filipino Painter
Juan Luna y Novicio, born on October 23, 1857, was an
Ilocano Filipino painter, sculptor and a political activist of
the Philippine Revolution during the late 19th century. He
became one of the first recognized Philippine artists.
Born in the town of Badoc, Ilocos Norte in the northern
Philippines, Juan Luna was the third among the seven children of
Don Joaquin Luna de San Pedro y Posadas and Doña Laureana Novicio y Ancheta. He had four
brothers : Mauel, a violin virtuoso; Jose, a physician; Joaquin Damoso, a governor,
congressman, and senator; and Antonio, a writer and general of the Philippine Revolution
Army. Juan Luna's family was one of the prominent and richest families in their town.
In 1861, the Luna family left the north for Manila, believing that in this progressive city
their children would receive a good education. Juan Luna was sent to Ateneo Municipal de
Manila to study high school and obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree, equivalent to the
present-day high school diploma. His parents seemed to have envisioned him entering an
ecclesiastical career, however, Juan had shown early interest in painting and drawing,
influenced by his brother, Manuel, who, according to Jose Rizal, was a better painter than Juan
In 1869, Luna enrolled at Escuela Nautica de Manila (now Philippine Merchant Marine
Academy) where after five years of theoretical courses and practical sailing to Asian ports,
obtained the certificate of piloto de altos mares tercer clase (pilot of the high seas third class).
With Manuel, he sailed the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean and saw the picturesque
views and scenic places in Hongkong, Amoy, Singapore, Batavia, and Colombo. Nevertheless,
Luna's passion for the arts continued. Whenever he was anchored in Manila Bay for six months,
he took up landscape painting at the Academia de Dibujo y Pintura (Academy of Fine Arts) in
Manila where he was influenced and taught how to draw by the Spanish artist Agustin Saez. He
also received private lessons from the illustrious painting teacher of Ermita, Manila, Lorenzo
Guerrero, who perceiving his potential. Unfortunately, Luna's vigorous brush strokes displeased
his teacher at the Academia and this probably was the reason why Luna was discharged from
this school. However, Guerrero was impressed by his skill and urged his parents to send him to
Spain for further studies.
In the last quarter of 1877, with his brother Manuel, Juan Luna sailed to Europe, where
Manuel studied music and Juan painting. Juan entered the Escuela de Bellas Artes de San
Fernando, an art school who produced notable painters such as Pablo Picasso and Salvador
Dali. There, he met and befriended the painter Don Alejo Vera, a professor of the school, and
obtained an award for outstanding color, composition and antique studies.
It was in 1878 when his artistic talents was established with the opening of the first art
exposition in Madrid 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.
Juan Luna was discontented with the style of teaching in school and decided that it
would be much better to work with Vera. He apprenticed himself with Alejo Vera and
accompanied him to Italy in 1879 for some of his commissions. Luna was exposed to the art of
the Renaissance painters. Upon arriving there, Luna visited the ruins of Pompeii and Naples and
made some 40 studies of excavated classical sites and objects now mostly in the National
Museum of the Philippines.
At this time he finished his miniature "Autoretrato a Edad 22" (Self portrait at 22), in
charcoal, and "Dafnis y Chloe," (Daphnis and Chloe). The latter would soon win him a silver
palette from the Centro Artistico Literario de Manila. When Vera went back to Spain, Luna
remained behind, staying with the Berdlliure brothers, with whom he was to develop a loyal
friendship. He stayed in Rome until spring, 1884, finishing there such pieces as "La Bella Feliz y
la Esclava Ciega" (The Happy Beauty and the Blind Slave), "La Muerte de Cleopatra" (The Death
of Cleopatra), and the "Portrait of Pedro Paterno."
His "La Muerte de Cleopatra" won for him a silver medal at the Madrid Art Exposition of
1881. His growing reputation as an artist led to a pension scholarship at 600 pesos annually
through the Ayuntamiento de Manila. He was granted a four year scholarship, upon the
instigation by Francisco de Paula Rodoreda, on the condition that he was to develop a painting
which captured the essence of Philippine history which would then become the Ayuntamiento's
In 1883 he started painting the "Spoliarium," which won him the first gold medal at the
Madrid Art Exposition the following year. A colossal multifigure scene depicting dead gladiators
being mourned by their relatives at the basement of the Roman Colosseum, the "Spoliarium"
was identified by Jose Rizal as an allusion to the exploitation or the Philippines by Spain.
Luna transferred to Paris in October 1884 but he shuttled back and forth to Madrid as
his works, particularly portraits, were now in demand. His presence was also needed by fellow
Filipinas who were pushing for reforms in the Philippine colony from the Madrid government.
In 1885, he executed "El pacto de Sangre" (Blood Compact) and "Miguel Lopez de
Legaspi," pieces sent to Manila in return for his aforementioned scholarship. He also started "La
batalla de Lepanto" (The battle of Lepanto) commissioned by the Spanish Senate upon the
influence of King Alfonso XII to be hung beside "La Rendicion de Granada" (The Surrender of
Granada) by 1878 grand prize winner Francisco Pradilla. By this gesture, the king hoped to
compensate Luna who was not given the grand prize for Spoliarium. Although public sentiment
felt he deserved the award, it was withheld from him by a biased jury.
In 1886 Luna's Damas "Romanas" (Roman Ladies) won a diploma of honor at the Munich
Salon, and in 1887 his "Mestiza en su Tocador" (Mestiza Lady at her Dresser) won a similar
award at the Exposicion General de las Filipinas. In November of the same year, the Queen
Regent Maria Cristina unveiled both Luna's and Pradilla's paintings at the Madrid Senate, where
both are still hanging.
On December 8, 1886, Luna married Maria de la Paz (Chiching)
Pardo de Tavera y Gorricho, a sister of his friend Felix
and Trinidad Pardo de Tavera. The couple traveled to Venice and
Rome and settled in Paris. They had one son, whom they named
Andrés, and a daughter, Maria de la Paz, nicknamed Bibi, who
died in infancy.
Paz Pardo de Tavera
(second from left)
In I892, Luna finished "Peuple et Rois" (People and Kings), which
he intended to send to the Chicago Universal Exposition of that
year. Around that time Luna frequently accused his wife Paz of
having an affair with a Monsieur Dussaq. In a fit of jealousy, he
killed his wife and mother-in-law and wounded his brother-inlaw, 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, and his son, Andrés.
In Spain, Luna executed two worker themed paintings: "La Colada" (The Strainer) and a
genre scene entitled "Interior de los Talleres del Acero Robert" (Interior of the Robert Steel
Foundy). In May 1894, after an odyssey of 17 years, Juan returned to Manila with his son and
his brother Antonio.
In the summer of 1896, he traveled to Japan with his student Gaston O'Farrell. Juan did
as many as 20 paintings in Japan. He returned to the Philippines during the Philippine
Revolution of the Cry of Balintawak. Unfortunately, on September 16, 1896, he and his
brother Antonio Luna were arrested by Spanish authorities for being involved with
the Katipunan rebel army. Despite his imprisonment, Luna was still able to produce a work of
art which he gave to a visiting priest.
The evidence brought against them were just mere news clippings from the La
Solidaridad, where Antonio submitted a handful of articles. Juan Luna was pardoned by the
Spanish courts on May 27, 1897 and was released from prison. He then traveled back to Spain
to work for the pardon of his brother, Antonio. During his homecoming period he painted many
portraits such as Gobernador General Ramon Blanco, La Bulaquena, those of his parents,
brothers, sisters in-law and nieces. He painted landscapes like "Taal Volcano," "Marikina," and
genre scenes like "Tampuhan (Sulking)."
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 theRepública Filipina (Philippine Republic). In 1899, upon the signing of
the Treaty of Paris (1898), Luna was named a member of the delegation to Washington, D.C. 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 at
the age of 42. 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 in the Philippines, with his
monument standing outside the shrine. Five years
later, Juan would be reinstated as a world renowned
artist and Peuple et Rois, his last major work, was
acclaimed the best entry to the Saint Louis World's
Fair in the United States. Unfortunately some of his
paintings were destroyed by fire in World War II.
Juan Luna’s niche at San Agustin
Church. Intramuros, Manila
Juan Luna was instrumental in placing Philippine art and culture on the world map. He
began his formal art training at the Academy of Fine Arts, studying under Filipino artist Lorenzo
Guerrero. In 1887 he left for Madrid, Spain, to continue his studies at the Real Academia de
Bellas Artes de San Fernando. It was during this period that he painted "Dafne y Chloe," which
won the Silver Palette Award from the Centro Artistico-Literario de Manila.
Other major awards established Luna's reputation as a master painter both in the
Philippines and Europe. These included the gold medal at the National Exposition of Fine Arts
Madrid in 1884 for "Spoliarium" and a special gold medal award at the Barcelona Exposition in
1888 for "La Batalla de Lepanto," a work commissioned by the Spanish Senate.
Nurtured in the academic classical canons then prevalent all over the western world,
Luna followed the conventional steps in attaining professional success, such as obtaining prizes
with colossal Graeco-Roman canvases in the grand Classico-Romantic manner at the prestigious
art salons of Europe.
Regarded for work done in the manner of the Spanish and French 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
His artistic talents was established in 1878 with the opening of the first art exposition in
Madrid. From then on, Luna became engrossed in painting and produced a collection of
paintings that he exhibited in the 1881 Exposition.
The famous masterpieces of Luna include :
A painting entered in the Exposicion
General de Bellas Artes in 1884 in
Madrid, where it won a gold medal.
It currently hangs in the main gallery
at the ground floor of the National
Museum of the Philippines.
El Pacto de Sangre (1886)
El Pacto de Sangre (The Blood
Compact) is an award winning historic
painting, depicting the blood compact
ceremony between the native
chieftain Datu Sikatuna and the
Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de
Legazpi. It is currently displayed at
the top of the grand staircase leading
towards the Ceremonial Hall of
the Malacañan Palace.
La Batalla de Lepanto (1887)
La Batalla de Lepanto (The Battle of
Lepanto), one of the “huge epic
canvasses” painted by Juan Luna, is
about the Battle of Lepanto of
October 7, 1571. It features Don Juan
of Austria (also known as Don John of
Austria) in battle while at the bow of a
La Marquesa de Monte Olivar is one of the earliest works by Juan
Luna in the Ayala Museum collection. The painting is a fine example
of Luna's early period and demonstrates his careful design and
execution. It is painted in the manner of the figures in his 1881
competition pieces. It is possible that Luna painted La Marquesa
after winning his silver medal for La muerte de Cleopatra. This early
triumph had surely qualified him to undertake what was probably his
first portrait commission from the Spanish nobility. To date, little
information is available on the identity of the marquesa.
In Philippine art criticism, Luna's paintings are loosely described as "impressionistic."
This is a fine example of a Philippine impressionist work. Luna was intrigued by the
impressionists and was quick to grasp the essence of their style. He described his own works to
compatriot Jose Rizal, another Filipino in Europe, as a "mosaic of pure colors of the rainbow."
Luna applied colors directly from the paint tube, dabbing his applications side by side on
the canvas, allowing the viewer's eyes to blend them together to form a unified image.
Although the Marquesa's face is achieved through thinly applied layers of paint, her figure was
subjected to thicker layers of paint. He chose in this formal work to confine his colors to varying
shades of deep blue for the dress, white for the shawl, and pink and red tones for the
complexion. To compensate for this somber, formal aura, Luna endowed La Marquesa with
movement by rendering her shawl with quick strokes, which expediently evoked the varied
textures in the embroidery. The brochadas--vigorous strokes usually made with a stubby brush-captured the essential forms and details in this portrait.
The first time the art world sat up and took notice was when Luna entered his first
masterpiece, The Death of Cleopatra, at the 1881 Madrid Exposition of Fine Arts and won
second-place silver medal for it. What was more important was that several critics thought his
painting far surpassed the Italian and Spanish entries. The Filipino community in Madrid was
watching closely the progress of this young painter from then on. Luna was then barely 24, an
ex-naval officer and pensionado of the Philippine Colonial Government. He had briefly attended
classes at the Academia de San Fernando and was now protege of Alejo Vera, one of the young
Filipino so impressed Vera that he took Luna along with him when he went to Rome to
undertake some commissions
Luna’s Spolarium, an immense painting which measure roughly 4 x 7 meters, was an
immediate sensation. It won not only the highest possible honor, the first of three Gold Medals,
but also enthusiastic notice in the newspaper columns of Madrid, Barcelona, and Paris. Here is
some of what the critics said:
"The largest work, the most frightful, the most discussed work of the
"It is more than a painting, it is a book, a poem."
"It is something more than the mere mechanism of genius, of the art
composition. . . Luna is a thinker."
"The superior qualities of Luna are: as an artist, his ambition to produce great
designs; to subdue the multitude with the resources of the highest class in art;
serious and rough, not with vile adulations from the pencil nor of color in
beautiful lines; as a painter, his energetic style, broad and noble, truthful and on
"A giant of art, a kind of Hercules, that enters furiously leveling down all the gods
with blows from his club, bringing in a new art, full of ideas and forms, carrying a
Spartan soul and the brush of Michelangelo.
Consensus of opinion among critics, painters, and the press of Madrid and Barcelona
was that Luna deserved, besides his gold medal, the rare and more prestigious "Prize of Honor"
award, which had previously been conferred on Francisco Padilla, the greatest contemporary
Spanish historical painter, in the 1878 Madrid Exposition.
The style of the Spoliarium, and other historical paintings with similar message to
deliver, draw more from romanticism than from classicism, because of Luna's passionate,
The serene grace of classicism, with its stately forms, elegantly fluent lines, cool clarity
of light, was not for Luna. What he got from classicism, however, was a sense of dignity and
The visual rhetoric of the romantics appealed to the emotions in a broad, sweeping,
compelling way---and this appealed more to Luna's nature: vigorous brushstrokes, high-lighting---dramatic chiaroscuro, or interplay of light and shadow---nervous, jagged lines, heroic
proportions. Such a style can overwhelm the sense and the emotions by its sheer physical
magnitude and dynamic presence. And because the painting does not indicate everything with
explicit clarity, it engages your imagination, sucks it in, making it fill in the areas that are not
penetrated by light, and fill out those forms that are deliberately rendered as, to quote a critic
of Luna's time, "incomplete indication." It is the kind of painting that lends itself to the patriotic
needs and on which Rizal and others projected a nationalistic symbolism; it has the kind of
visual rhetoric that helped rouse the Filipino desire to do something about political oppression.
Luna's paintings are generally described as being vigorous and dramatic. With its
elements of Romanticism, his style shows the influence of Delacroix, Rembrandt,
and Daumier. The following are some of his famous paintings :
Barrio Al Lado Del Rio
Vista Un Barrio Con Kapok
La Madrileña (En el Balcon)
La Muerte de Cleopatra
Las Damas Romanas
El Pacto de Sangre
España y Filipinas
La Batalla de Lepanto
Hymen o Hymenee
Ensueños de Amor
The Parisian Life
Peuple at Rois
Village by the River
Barrio Scene with Kapok Trees
The Woman from Madrid (At the Balcony). It depicts a woman
holding a umbrella known as the parasol. It is one of paintings
that illustrate Luna’s inclination of making women as an artistic
theme, showing the artist’s talent as an enthusiastic painter
and observer of the fairer sex. It is one of the few existing
finished paintings that are regarded by art experts as a “legacy”
The Death of Cleopatra. Second prize winner at the National
Exposition of Fine Arts in Madrid, Spain
The Roman Maidens. An oil on canvas painted by Juan Luna
when he was a student at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de
San Fernando in Madrid, Spain.
A painting that garnered the first gold medal at the Exposición
Nacional de Bellas Artes in Madrid, Spain
The Blood Compact. Award winning historical painting
It is one of Luna’s so-called “Academic Salon portraits” that
followed the standards of proper proportion and perspective,
and realistic depictions with “an air of dignity and allure”.
Spain and the Philippines. An allegorical depiction of
two women together, one a representation of Spain and the
other of the Philippines. The painting, also known as España
Guiando a Filipinas ("Spain Leading the Philippines") and is
regarded as one of the “enduring pieces of legacy” that
the Filipinos inherited from Luna
The Battle of Lepanto. Currently at the Senate Hall in Madrid
Sometimes referred to as La Mestiza(The Mestiza), La Mestiza
en su Tocador (The Mestiza at Her Dressing Table or Mestiza
Lady at Her Dresser). It won an award at the Exposicion General
de las Filipinas (Philippine General Exposition).
The painting won a bronze medal during the 1889 Paris
Exposition Universelle in Paris, France.
It is a "serene portrait", of a Filipino woman wearing a Maria
Daydreams of Love. A “dreamy” oil on wood painting depicting
his wife Maria Paz while sound asleep.
A sensitive portrayal of Jesus Christ done while Juan Luna and
his brother Antonio were imprisoned for 8 months by Spanish
Also known as Interior d'un Cafi literally meaning "Inside
aCafé"). The painting presently owned by the Government
Service Insurance System is currently exhibited at the National
Museum of the Philippines
People and Kings
A classic oil on canvas impressionist painting which depicts
a Filipino man and a Filipino woman having a lovers' quarrel.