Saturday, March 11, 2017
*425. IMMORTALIZING KAPAMPANGANS IN 19TH CENTURY PORTRAITURE
THE QUIASON FAMILY OF SAN FERNANDO. As painted in 1875 by Simon de la Rosa Flores. Central Bank Collection. Photo from the Press Reader.
It was Dr. Jaime Laya, former National Commission for Culture and Arts who observed” “Portraits are challenges to mortality. The originals may have long become dust, but their likeness remains—on canvas and boards—seeking to remind us living in the present, that they once were here.”
Portraiture is the most popular form of painting in the Philippines, and it took only 2 to 3 centuries for Filipino artists to imbibe Western portraiture art. Filipino portraiture came of age in the 19th century when the Filipino artist gained more confidence after achieving a measure of social and economic prosperity. Portraits are able to depict not only individuals but an entire social class of family members. Thus, we see not only individuals, but ilustrados, politicos, hacienderos, professionals, and even rich kids, who made Pampanga what it is now.
Early portraitists include the Spanish mestizo Damian Domingo, director of the first Philippine Art Academy in 1826, Severino Flavier Pablo (Capitan Viring) of Paco, whose 1836 portrait of Don Paterno Molo is thought to be the earliest to have survived ,Tondo-born master of miniaturismo Antonio Malantic (1820), and the Asuncion family of artists from Sta. Cruz, Manila led by brothers Mariano Asuncion (1802), Leoncio, a sculptor (1813), Justiniano or Capitan Ting (1816), Antonio, Mariano Jr., Ambrosio, and Manuel Tarcilo (sculptor). Leoncio’s son –Hilarion—and grandson Jose Maria, also became noted painters.
In Pampanga, there was no lack of portrait sitters as the numerous members of the landed gentry sought the services of itinerant artists. The most prominent name is Manila –born Simon Flores de la Rosa (1839), who settled in Bacolor and made the rounds of Kapampangan towns, and a handful of his portraits form part of his legacy.
Perhaps, his most-well known is that of the Quiason Family of San Fernando, headed by Cirilo Cunanan Quiason and wife Severina David Henson and their Two Children” painted in 1875. Cirilo’s 2 brothers, Lucio and Pablo, were successful landowners and traders, and each one commissioned Flores to create family portraits. The painting cost 50 pesos per head, in gold coins, for a total of 200 pesos. The seated baby is named Jose, and was originally painted with his male member exposed. When the baby Jose grew up, it was said he was embarrassed to see himself naked, so he—or someone--scratched away that part of the painting, causing a bit of damage. It has since been professionally restored, his nakedness covered.
In the town of Sta. Ana, Flores painted the pretty Andrea Dayrit. Her portrait hung in the 1840s Dizon house, famous in its time for its late Neoclassical and English Regency architectural details. Mexico has a couple of Flores portraits, and the most well-known is that of long-haired Miguela Henson in front of her dresser. It is now in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas collection.
Flores, who settled in San Vicente in Bacolor, also painted portraits of his wife, Simplicia Tambungui, originally from Guagua, but no work survived.However, in 1890, he painted a portrait of his brother Monsignor Ignacio Pineda Tambungui , a canon of the Manila Cathedral and a chaplain at the San Juan de Dios Hospital. In return, Msgr. Tambungui gave his brother-in-law church decorating-commissions in Pampanga towns.
Bacolor’s most influential couple in the 1850s also sat for Flores. Don Jose Leon y Santos was one of the sons of gobernadorcillo Francisco Paula de los Santos and Doña Luisa Gonzaga de Leon. Jose himself became a town head of Bacolor in 1857. The oil portrait of him was done in August 1887 when he was 59 years old. He was married twice, first to Arcadia Joven y Suarez , and upon her death, Leon Santos wed her sister, Ramona Joven. Her portrait was completed in August 1882. The paintings now hang at the Museo de La Salle.
One of the earliest known works of Flores, dates from 1862,--when he was just 23 years old. It is that of Don Olegario Rodriguez (1806/1874), patriarch of the still-flourishing Rodriguez clan of Bacolor, when the subject was “56 anos.” Until Pinatubo of 1991, it used to hang in the sala of his ancestral house but has since been secured by Rodriguez descendants in Manila.
Meanwhile, in Candaba, Flores painted two doyennes of the “principalia” landowning class: the severe-looking Severina Ocampo de Arroyo and the plump Quintina Castor de Sadie, a work dubbed as the “Fat Woman from Candaba.” Since the 1980s, they have been with Central Bank.
The Sioco progenitor of Apalit, Josef Sioco (1786/1864 ) has a surviving portrait, painted by Capitan Ting. A Chinese mestizo landowner known for his frugality (he was called “Joseng Daga” because he stashed everything away, like a rat), he courted Marta Rodriguez of Bacolor. Turned down, he married the older, less attractive sister, Matea, in 1856. He was 70, she was 21. When Sioco died, Matea married Juan Arnedo Cruz. Matea, Juan and elder daughter Sabina had portraits done by Flores as well, but these have disappeared, presumed stolen and sold in the 70s while being transferred to the Escaler house in Bacolor.
Many prominent Pampanga families were immortalized by Flores on oil and canvass, but some of these have been lost forever or their whereabouts unknown : Julian Buyson of Bacolor, the Gils of Porac whose portrait was lost after the war, Saturnino Hizon of Mexico, Jose Berenguer and wife, Simona Linares of Arayat, haciendero Lino Reyes and wife Raymunda Soriano(lost in a 1928 fire).
Lately, two century old portraits surfaced and are now on loan to the Center for Kapampangan Center at Holy Angel University by the heirs. They are those of Don Maximinao Songco, gobernadorcillo of Floridablanca and Guagua, and his wife, Juana Limlingan y Chintuico. They were painted in the last decade of the 1800s (10 June 1893 to be exact), which saw the start of the merging of the sensibilities of the past with the new techniques of the day.
Now comes the interesting and mysterious part. Both paintings are signed --Sg. Lorenzo R. There was one accomplished portraitist by the name of Lorenzo Rocha (b.1837/d.1898), a product Academia de Dibujo y Pintura and former painter to the Royal Chamber of his Majesty in Madrid. However, his signature does not match those of the Songco portraits and more research is needed to validate the creator of these 124 year-old paintings.
The desire to be remembered after one is gone is only human. But, in the stories we conjure as we view these portraits--these people live on. Through their faces, expressions, finery and pose---we see people as the artists saw them. In a way, we can understand a bit more of the lives, times, attitudes and character of these people who have made Pampanga what it is today.