Fernando Amorsolo’s 1931 oil-on-canvas “Mango Gatherers” fetched a whopping P46.7 million during León Gallery’s Spectacular Midyear Auction last June 9, setting a new world record for the first ever National Artist to be proclaimed.
“Aside from Amorsolo, world records were achieved by Roberto Chabet, Mark Justiniani, Lorenzo Guerrero, José Rizal and others,” León Gallery director Jaime Ponce de León said.
Guerrero—a master landscape artist from the late 19th century and the mentor of Juan Luna, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo and Fabian de la Rosa and teacher of Amorsolo—also set a new world record with the sale of his very small landscape. “At River’s Bend” fetched P17.5 million from a starting bid of just P800,000.
Made around 1868, “At River’s Bend” shows a romantic scene of a nipa huts at the edge of what’s believed to be the Marikina river, tributary to Pasig river.
The oil-on-masonite-board painting is less than a foot, just 7 x 11 inches (18 cm x 28 cm), making it “the most expensive Philippine painting per square inch,” said Ponce de León.
Last March, León also auctioned off National Artist José Joya’s 1959 oil-on-canvas “Space Transfiguration” for P112.13 million, which officially became the most expensive Philippine painting.
But Joya’s work measured 60 x 70 inches, and was much, much larger than Guerrero’s.
Perhaps just as groundbreaking was the winning price for José Rizal’s bas-relief wooden sculpture, “The Filipino,” which showed a man lifting a dumbbell. From a starting bid of P5 million, the work was sold for P17.5 million.
The sculpture came from the family of Narcisa Rizal, the third sibling of the hero’s family. The nation will be marking tomorrow the 157th birth anniversary of Rizal.
Justiniani’s 1998 oil-on-canvas “Ang Hari,” which depicts a pensive-looking overweight man, fetched P6.4 million.
Chabet’s 1964 oil-on-canvas “Blind Window,” meanwhile, was sold for P9.4 million.
National Artist Vicente Manansala’s 1944 work, “Planting Rice,” which shows farmers hard at work, was sold for P10.5 million.
Florencio Concepcion’s 2003 oil-on-canvas “Abstract” was sold for P2.3 million.
Nena Saguil’s 1966 oil-on-canvas “Cosmos Austere,” showing the artist’s signature painstaking details, was bought for P1.28 million.
Also a significant piece was Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera’s 1989 oil-on-canvas “Woman Sitting.” It was sold for P4.44 million.
National Artist Ang Kiukok’s 1982 oil-on-canvas “Man with Fish,” a grisly portrait of an emaciated man holding a monster fish, fetched a stunning P12.8 million.
Another highlight was Danilo Dalena’s 1996 “Lubid (Quiapo Ilalim Series),” a tribute to the Black Nazarene, which was sold for P5.14 million.
Other visual arts highlights: Mauro Malang Santos’ 1997 oil-on-canvas “Tsismis” (P5.6 million); Ronald Ventura’s 2008 oil-on-canvas “Scream” II (P11.68 million); and Solomon Saprid’s metal sculpture “Sepak Takraw” (P2.57 million).
The Manila aparador from the second quarter of the 19th century was sold for P5.8 million. The main front of the cabinet consists of a pair of narra door panels framed in kamagong.
According to social historian Martin Tinio Jr., back then kamagong furniture was only for the very rich.
“Aside from the material being very hard to find, the density and hardness of the wood made it extremely difficult to work with,” Tinio said. “Artisans working with kamagong had to sharpen their tools almost every half hour, and a wrong move during carving usually resulted in a chipped chisel blade.”
Meanwhile, the Isabelo L. Tampinco armchair, made from narra and rattan, was bought for 3.97 million.
This armchair was part of a suite of furniture that Tampinco made in 1909 for Maximo Viola, the man who lent Rizal the money needed to publish his novel, “Noli Me Tangere.”
“The chair,” said Tinio, “stands on four feet carved in the shape of an inverted and truncated trunk of an areca or bonga palm emanating from a quadrant at each corner carved with a section of an anahaw leaf.” —CONTRIBUTED
Check out the results of the auction at leon-gallery.com.