Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Juan Luna's "A Do Va Nave?"sold for Php40-M ... is this the original?

The photo-engraving of the Luna painting published in the 31 May 1886 issue of Ilustracion Artistca. 
The title in the caption: "A DO VA NAVE? ... QUIEN SABE DO  VA!

The painting came all the way from Argentina. It was sold by Salcedo Auctions at Php40-million. 

A phone-in bidder clenched Juan Luna's "A Do Va Nave?" oil painting from Salcedo Auctions for a whooping Php 40-million on19 September 2015. When the auctioneer banged the gavel to close the sale, the audience gave it appreciative applause and cheers as mobile phonecams rose to record the winning price on the screen.

The painting is dated 1885. A similar painting--although with very significant differences--appeared in the May 31, 1886 issue of Ilustracion Artistica: a photo-engraving by M. Weber. It was titled"A Do Va Nave?,,, Quien Sabe Do Va!" from the first chorus of the "El Diablo Mundo" (The Devil World), a poem that was left unfinished by the famous Spanish poet Jose de Espronceda (1808-1842):

                               "Alla va la nave: Quien sabe do va?
                               "Ay, triste el que fia / Del viento y la mar!"

"El Diablo Mundo" is described as a "Romantic poem [which] builds an allegory of human existence. ... [The six hymns or parts] recount how Adam, as the embodiment of all mankind, must choose between dying and discovering the ultimate truth, or living eternally. Having chosen the first option, Adam is reborn in a young and strong body, But all this will bring him bitter consequences. [1]"

Luna must have admired Espronceda, his life as poet, lover and rebel. Ilustracion said that the painting is his interpretation of the poet's devilish world. One woman was just about to be swallowed by the sea. Tthe sea has claimed a victim, Ilustracion said, and that the lady reclining is unconscious and"leaning towards the abyss." The boatload of ladies with a young officer and a gentleman are headed to the unknown in the face of danger, a storm looming in the distance.  These make us then look at the totally veiled lady in white as a specter, not a bride as we initially thought.

The version that was auctioned came all the way from Argentina. According to the published reports, the original owner brought it with him from Cuba to Argentina after the Casto take-over, and tt's possible that this could have been from Gov-Gen Ramon Blanco, a friend of Luna, who was posted in Cuba.

The picture became postcard pretty: ladies in a leisurely trip on a boat, and one of them a bride, with the young man at the helm, and the older gentleman busy with his pen, There are skiffs too in the left background even if the sea appears rough and the skies are dark.

We forward that the Luna painted two versions. He could not have reworked the Ilustracion version to eliminate the lady falling to the sea. He could have been commissioned to do a variation of the theme. The "A Do Nave?" came after the success of Spoliarium in the Madrid Exposition of Fine Arts.  In fact, according to his biography [2], Luna was commissioned to do an exact copy of the Spoliarium for a Russian art lover even as the masterpiece was still hanging at the Madrid Salon.

The Ilustracion version could be the original; it was still around in 1886 to be photographed for publication.  This copy then remains lost. Who knows, the heirs of the original owner may yet bring it to the lucrative art market in due time.


[1] Spain is Culture at http://www.spainisculture.com/en/obras_culturales/diablo_mundo.html
[2] Pilar Santiago Albano. 1980. Juan Luna: The Filipino as painter. Quezon City: Eugenio Lopez Foundation, Inc. 

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