Juan Luna's Long-Lost Painting Revealed After 132 Years

See it for free at the Ayala Museum.
by Christa I. De La Cruz
June 10, 2023
Courtesy of the Ayala Museum

(SPOT.ph) Filipino painter Juan Luna is known for the Spoliarium, a 25-foot oil on canvas painting that graces the halls of the National Museum of Fine Arts. But an equally significant piece is "Hymen, oh Hyménée!," a long-lost painting last seen in public 132 years ago in Paris. And after more than a century, it will finally be on display at the Ayala Museum starting on June 12, just in time for the 125th Independence Day celebrations. Entrance is free on this day.

"Hymen, oh Hymenee!" by Juan Luna y Novicio (1889)
PHOTO BY Courtesy of the Ayala Museum

Everything You Need to Know About Juan Luna's "Hymen, oh Hyménée!"

"Hymen, oh Hyménée!" is considered by many art collectors as the holy grail of Philippine art. It won a bronze model at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle, which is the same event for which the Eiffel Tower was built as a centerpiece. But the painting's whereabouts have since been unknown.

For about 10 years, art collector Jaime Ponce de Leon of León Gallery was obsessed with finding "Hymen, oh Hyménée!" He followed leads and clues all over Europe, until he finally acquired the piece in 2014. It wasn't until 2022 when a long-term loan between León Gallery and Ayala Museum was formalized, which led to the well-planned unveiling of the legendary piece this year through a multimedia exhibition Splendor: Juan Luna, Painter as Hero.

"Hymen, oh Hymenee!" by Juan Luna y Novicio (1889) at the Ayala Museum
PHOTO BY Courtesy of the Ayala Museum
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Designed by scenographer Gino Gonzales, Ayala Museum's Splendor: Juan Luna, Painter puts Luna's "Hymen, oh Hyménée!" front and center. It is not often that an exhibition focuses only on an individual work of art, but it only seems befitting for a long-lost masterpiece.

Aside from having the painting on full display, Splendor also features a catalog of essays by historian Ambeth R. Ocampo, Ph.D., film director Martin Arnaldo, and curators Ditas Samson, Tenten Mina, and Jei Ente. Arnado's documentary film about the recovery of the artwork is also up for screening at the Ayala Museum.

Splendor: Juan Luna, Painter as Hero runs until December 31 at the Ayala Museum, Greenbelt Park, Makati Avenue corner Dela Rosa Street, Ayala Center, Makati City. Admission is free on June 12, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Slots are limited. Regular rates are at P650. For updates, visit Ayala Museum's website.