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The story of esteemed 19th-century Spanish painter’s ‘lonely tomb’ at the La Loma Cemetery

Don’t you just love a good back story, especially one that contributes to the enrichment of our culture and history? An old post by Ronaldo Samson Adoptante about the story of a “neglected tomb” of 19th-century Spanish painter Joaquin Maria Herrer y Rodriguez in La Loma Cemetery, which has resurfaced once again on Facebook thanks to whatever Mark Zuckerberg has been doing to his algorithm, is seeing a renewed public interest about the life and times of the esteemed artist.

According to the said post, the story began when a friend of Adoptante took a picture of the late Spanish artist’s tomb and posted it on the Facebook group named Manila Nostalgia. From there, he shared the research he did about the Spanish artist’s life and how he was able to reunify him with his descendants.

 

The master artist’s life

Don Joaquin was a master in landscape painting and figure drawing who studied at some of the world’s most prestigious schools of art, including the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In the latter stage of his life, he served as a professor at la Escuela de Bellas Artes in Manila–the forerunner of UP College of Fine Arts.

Some of his well-known works were exhibited in Prado Museum, the main Spanish national art museum in Madrid, and some of Spain’s public buildings. One of his last awards was a silver medal for his paintings at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in California.

In Invaluable, a world-recognized online marketplace for fine art, antiques, and collectibles, the master artist’s 110: Joaquin Ma. Herrer (1837-1917) was auctioned with a price estimate of Php 100,000-130,000.

La Loma Cemetery lonely tomb neglected tomb
via Invaluable website

Separation from his roots

His basic information was inscribed in his tomb with vines and surrounded by tall grass. “Don Joaquin Maria Herrer y Rodriguez, Pintor y Profesor de la Escuela de Bellas Artes de Manila; born Madrid 1838 – died Manila 1917”, it stated. 

However, upon checking the Prado Museum website, Adoptante found out that their record stated that Don Joaquin died in 1892. Interestingly, he went to Manila in 1893 and probably could not go back before he died, hence the inconsistent record.

A news article about Don Joaquin’s passing

Unsurprisingly, this master artist had no relatives in the Philippines, and the administrator of his estate upon his death was Don Rafael Enriquez. The latter was also an esteemed painter but not related to him by blood.

 

Locating his family

Through research, Adoptante revealed that Don Joaquin had a son who was also a painter named César Herrer y Marcher (1868–1919). He used to live in Baia Mare, Romania, before migrating to Budapest, Hungary, in 1904. According to Mr. Jozsef Palfalvi from Budapest, whose wife was a granddaughter of César, he married a Hungarian citizen, which explained why Don Joaquin’s family was in a place probably unfamiliar to him.

In February of 2017, Adoptante helped the great-great-grandson of Don Joaquin named Balazs Juhazs to locate his tomb. Perhaps meant to happen, that year marked the 100th anniversary of the master artist’s death.

via Ronaldo Samson Adoptante

 

The depth of dissociation 

During their visit, Balazs Juhazs shared with Adoptante that he once worked in Makati, utterly unaware of his great-great-grandfather’s grave in the same country.

In Mr. Jozsef Palfalvi’s home in Budapest, they stored as the family’s collection the works of César that they bought one by one from various auctions. But for Don Joaquin’s works, what they only had left was the portrait of his wife Maria Angeles, saved by César when he migrated to Budapest.

La Loma Cemetery lonely tomb neglected tomb
via Ronaldo Samson Adoptante

 

Ronaldo Samson Adoptante is a Filipino history enthusiast based in London.

 

Other POP! stories you might like:

Filipino mobile game ‘Galà’ teaches players about Philippine history and culture

A quick dive into the history of the LGBTQIA+ community in the Philippines

Artle: The Wordle game for art history buffs and enthusiasts

 

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