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Juan Luna’s long-lost painting finally unveiled after 132 years

Filipino artist Juan Luna’s masterpiece which has been missing for over a century has been revealed after 132 years.

The painting named “Hymen, oh Hyménéee!” which depicts a Roman wedding is considered “the holy grail of Philippine art” by art collectors and won a bronze medal at the Exposition Universelle in 1889.

However, the painting was said to be sold during the 1930s by Luna’s child and was last seen at a Paris Exposition in 1981. Wherein, the only proof of its existence is a black-and-white photo that was taken at Luna’s art studio in Paris, France.

photo by The Ayala Museum
“Hymen, oh Hymenee!” by Juan Luna y Novicio (1889) | photo by The Ayala Museum

The said piece was allegedly ordered to be burned down by the Pardo de Tavera family after Luna shot to death his spouse Paz Pardo de Tavera and her mother Juliana out of passion in 1892.

The lost masterpiece was found by the art collector and owner of Leon Gallery Jaime Ponce de Leon who started looking for the painting 15 years ago – but to no avail, he couldn’t find it until he received a call in 2014 – to which he bought it and brought it back to the Philippines in 2017.

According to de Leon, the piece was painted in Europe in the 1880s when Luna got married to Paz and is a “monument to love” unlike Luna’s other works with the theme of social realism/social commentary.

Luna has been prominent in the art industry for his 1884 masterpiece “Spoliarium” to which he won a gold medal at the Exposición Nacional del Bellas Artes in Madrid which is currently at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Manila.

The “Hymen, oh Hyménée” will be on display in the exhibition “Splendor: Juan Luna, Painter as Hero” in commemoration of the 125th year of the Philippine Independence, starting June 12, 2023, until December 30, 2023, at the Ayala Museum.

The exhibition is designed by scenographer Gino Gonzales and will feature a catalog with essays by historian Ambeth R. Ocampo, film director Martin Arnaldo and curators Ditas Samson, Tenten Mina, and Jei Ente.


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