Spoliarium

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Spoliarium
Juan Luna Spoliarium.jpg
Artist Juan Luna
Year circa 1884
Type Oil on poplar
Dimensions 400 cm × 700 cm (160 in × 280 in)
Location National Museum of the Philippines

The Spoliarium (often misspelled Spolarium) is a painting by Filipino artist Juan Luna. The painting was submitted by Luna to the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884 in Madrid, where it garnered the first gold medal (out of three). In 1886, it was sold to the Diputación Provincial de Barcelona for 20,000 pesetas. It currently hangs in the main gallery at the ground floor of the National Museum of the Philippines, and is the first work of art that greets visitors upon entry into the museum.

Spoliarium as displayed in the National Museum of the Philippines

When Slaves Triumph Over Their Rulers[edit]

Juan Luna spent eight months to finish this award winning masterpiece on a greatly huge canvas depicting dying gladiators. (Leon Ma. Guerrero, "The First Filipino" 2007) Ambeth Ocampo wrote, "...the fact remains that when Luna and Felix Resurrection Hidalgo won the top awards in the Madrid Exposition of 1884, they proved to the world that indios could, despite their supposed barbarian race, paint better than the Spaniards who colonized them." (Ambeth R. Ocampo, "Rizal Without the Overcoat" 2000) ..

Jose Rizal's Heart on the Spoliarium[edit]

At a gathering of the Filipino expatriates in Madrid, Spain, Rizal enthusiastically gave his opening toast to celebrate the momentous "fresh proof of racial equality" the triumphs of two compatriots (the other one was Felix Hidalgo who won a silver medal) had achieved. (Leon Ma. Guerrero, "The First Filipino" 2007)

"Luna's Spoliarium with its bloody carcasses of slave gladiators being dragged away from the arena where they had entertained their Roman oppressors with their lives...stripped to satisfy the lewd contempt of their Roman persecutors with their honor..." Rizal was footnoted in his speech that the Spoliarium, "embodied the essense [sic] of our social, moral and political life: humanity in severe ordeal, humanity unredeemed, reason and idealism in open struggle with prejudice, fanaticism and justice..." (Leon Ma. Guerrero, "The First Filipino" 2007)

Impliedly, Leon Ma. Guerrero in "The First Filipino" says that Rizal was inspired to carve a mark of his own to give glory to his country by writing his 'Spoliarium' since early that year 1884 "he had been toying with the idea of a book" for he has seen and described the painting as "the tumult of the crowd, the shouts of slaves, the metallic clatter of dead men's armor, the sobs of orphans, the murmured prayers..." Rizal's book would be called "Noli Me Tangere", "the Latin echo of the Spoliarium". (Leon Ma. Guerrero, "The First Filipino, 2007)

Here is an excerpt of Jose Rizal's speech about the triumph of Juan Luna's Spoliarium (including Felix Hidalgo's Christian Virgins): "I ask you then to drink a toast to our painters, Luna and Hidalgo, exclusive and legitimate glories of two peoples [Spain and the Philippines]! A toast for those who have helped them on the arduous paths of art! A toast for the YOUTH of the Philippines, sacred hope of my country that they may follow such excellent examples..." (Leon Ma. Guerrero, "The First Filipino" 2007)

In popular culture[edit]

Ryan Cayabyab composed the opera Spoliarium, which chronicles the creation of the eponymous painting and Juan Luna's trial for the murder of his wife. Soprano Fides Cuyugan-Asensio wrote the libretto. A recorded version was released for commercial distribution in 2006.

Popular Filipino rock band The Eraserheads had a single entitled Spoliarium in their album Sticker Happy, penned by Ely Buendia.

External links[edit]