Conversations about: Fabian de la Rosa y Cueto, 1869 – 1937, painter

Long ago in mid-1987, Malolos patrician, historian, and nationwide heritage advocate Basilidez “Dez” Bautista led our group through a memorable tour of his hometown Malolos, Bulacan and environs.

He brought us to the famous prewar Art Deco mansion of the famous ophthalmologist LS.  Apart from the stunning ceiling painting by the young Fernando Amorsolo, and the goldfishes in the guest bathroom walls also by Amorsolo, what riveted my attention was the charming painting “Kundiman” by Fabian de la Rosa, an elegant scene of an afternoon musicale at home where the doctor himself, dressed in a light suit, was depicted seated in the corner.  For me, it was the soul of that house, more than the Amorsolo ceiling opus.

Several years later, in a crazy turn of events, I was admiring, albeit sadly, the very same “Kundiman” by Fabian de la Rosa in the entrance hall, hung with wallfuls of beautiful prewar Fernando Amorsolos, of an ubercollector friend’s Forbes Park house, where it hung by itself on a small section of wall beside the entrance to the dining room.  I wanted to weep at seeing an old friend displaced from one’s original home.  For me, it was totally forlorn and out of context there — a masterpiece among hundreds of other masterpieces in the Chinoy Croesus’ palace —  nowhere as beautiful, shining like a star, as it had been in its original and intended location —  the airy and commodious “sala” of the Art Deco doctor’s mansion in Pariancillo, Malolos, Bulacan.

Over dinner, close friends related, in hush-hush tones, the story of the painting’s acquisition.  I knew the doctor’s family was rich and didn’t need the money the painting had generated [ the broker’s margin notwithstanding ].  My friends related that the Fernando Amorsolo ceiling was badly deteriorated and required immediate restoration.  The doctor’s family, based in Ayala Alabang, was financially solid and could well afford it.  The well-known art restorer from Santa Ana, Manila was summoned and he declared that he could save it.  However, apart from the enormous restoration fee, he required something else from the family:  he would only restore it if the family agreed to sell the “Kundiman” painting by Fabian de la Rosa to him.  It was their Scylla and Charybdis:  it was one or the other.  The doctor’s family, desperate to save what they thought was their greatest treasure — the Amorsolo ceiling — agreed.  The restorer forthwith sold it to the Chinoy Croesus.  Well, we all know what happened to the art restorer after that.  End of story.

A few years ago, I came across another superb Fabian de la Rosa, a large painting of “Planting Rice” which traced its provenance to the estate of the Spanish mestizo patriarch of a rich shipping family.  Magnificent and mesmerizing.  I could not get enough of it the whole evening.  Because the heirs are still affluent and very discreet, the painting and the rest of the distinguished collection — including a large Fernando Amorsolo, a large Jorge Pineda, a unique pair of exquisite oil landscapes on “madre perla” shells by the national hero Jose Rizal, among other splendors — have not been seen by art scholars and connoisseurs for decades and will likely remain so.  That is the reason why it has not landed in the Chinoy Croesus’ palace.

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31 Comments

  1. May 24, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Franz J:

    We have a policy that comments with no real names, no email addresses that can be confirmed, and no reliable identity checks will no longer be allowed.

    Please upload your comment again with the requisite information.

    Thank you.

    Toto Gonzalez

  2. Alicia Perez said,

    August 16, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Chelle:

    My dear, do you really want to set yourself up for such needless aggravation? 🙂

    There are too many fakes and there are too many unscrupulous art dealers around. “Authentication papers” do not mean anything, least of all to the top art collectors.

    Paintings by the old Filipino masters are very, very, very difficult to come by. Most of them are in museums like the National and the Ayala or in great private collections like the Locsin, Agustines, Que, Campos, and Pascual. Most of them are known in great detail — subject, date, medium, dimensions, provenance, condition at the time of purchase, purchase price, restoration, restorer, price of restoration, relevant facts ( and rumors ), etc.. — by the top art collectors, top art dealers, respected scholars, and serious researchers. Millions of pesos
    have been lost to fakes, reproductions, and “fake originals.”

    It takes years and years of observation and familiarity with original works and empirical scientific knowledge to determine genuine paintings by the old masters. The problem with the Filipino art world is that it has already been infiltrated by criminal syndicates involved in international money laundering operations and art authentication has become a dangerous activity, specially when the results are unfavorable. Several of the country’s most reliable art authorities now refuse to evaluate publicly because of possible personal costs.

    My unsolicited advice: You’re better off buying contemporary Filipino artists Ronald Ventura, Geraldine Javier, Lynyrd Paras, Bencab, Charlie Co, et. al.. Far less aggravation except for the stratospheric prices!

    Alicia Perez

  3. August 16, 2011 at 11:06 am

    question,i knwo someone who is been selling paintings by some of the national artists u have mentioned, how do i know that the one they are selling are authentic, they say it comes with an authentication papers.

  4. November 30, 2010 at 3:03 am

    Tito Lito:

    Now you’ve got me confused. I remember having been shown two beautiful landscape paintings on “madre perla” shells by national hero Jose P. Rizal by CP and L. I probably have the beginnings of the dreaded “Alzheimer’s”… hahahah!!!

    Toto G. 😀

  5. November 27, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    toto – last sunday, i passed at a bazaar at white space on pasong tamo ext. and saw a book on phil paintings. i was surprised that there were many rizal paintings on madre perla shells. lolo ramon only had two; my grandmother inherited the; one went to my cousin, the other to me.

  6. November 27, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Tito Lito:

    Your cousin has two beautiful paintings on “madre perla” shells by Jose P. Rizal; they were certainly executed by a deft hand. They were shown to me by his wife after one dinner years ago. It’s just that the second one is “less” than the other: I cannot remember if it was not signed, or if it was cracked, or if it needed restoration, or what. Whatever the case, it was not as good as the first one.

    My guess is that if there were three paintings on “madre perla” shells by Jose P. Rizal, then there were probably more!!!

    Cheers!!!

    Toto Gonzalez 🙂

  7. November 27, 2010 at 7:05 am

    the post on the two fabian de la rosa paintings and the 2 jose rizal painting on capiz shell in (1) above, may be miss leading. I was a constant companion to lolo ramon fernandez in the fities and sixties.His wife was felisa hocson, my grnadfather’s only sister. lolo ramon would pick me up at ermita and we would paseo to his other houses in dongalo paranague, aristocrat at mh del pilar, fumin garden at dewey blvd. in the cars ( he had rolls, packard, cadillacs etc with bug eyes, running boards, weird horn signals(, he would practice my latin verses .i did not know than that he was a two time senator, chair of san miguel, founder of atlas consolidated pldt, pal etc. , 2 time mayor of manila. in the sala of his house i pinaglabanan, were displayed 2 huge de larosa, and two huge amorsolos of rice planting painted from his nhouse at the top of the hill at pinaglabanan, as well as one of the rizal on capiz shelll is with my cousin; i have the other capiz painting.

  8. Enrique Bustos said,

    November 27, 2010 at 4:39 am

    The rich Spanish shipping family that owns the “Planting Rice” by Fabian dela Rosa and the Jose Rizal’s pair of oil landscapes on madre perla shells must be the Fernandez family of old “Compania Maritima” their Matriarch Petra Leyba is a relative of the Mother of our National Hero Jose Rizal he used to stay in their house together with the sisters in their house in Binondo Dona Petra Leyba’s sister the very rich Dona Concepcion Leyba Martinez married Don Luis Martinez y Beaumont she owned vast tracks of land in the most prime locations in Manila like the Aristocrat Restaurant in Roxas Blvd, Buildings in Avenida Rizal.

  9. Jane T. Johnson said,

    November 24, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    There will be an original Fabian De la Rosa auctioned at the upcoming Christie’s sale on November 29th in Sinapore.

  10. Enrique Bustos said,

    October 6, 2010 at 5:30 am

    Dr Taddy

    I am not sure if Eulogio Lopez is a popular portraitist what i know then central bank governor Jaime Laya bought two portraits by Eulogio Lopez for the Central Bank Art Collection Portrait of Joaquin Santiago, Circa 1913 and Portrait of Juana Dilag, 1890

    Enrique

  11. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    October 4, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Enrique

    Thank you for the reply. I think I saw the name “EUGENIO LOPEZ” signed on the portrait.

    The signed piece actually looked like a sepia photograph, circa 1900’s.
    Did studio photographers sign their works then?

    Was Eulogio Lopez a popular portraitist in the late 1800’s in Manila?

    Dr. Taddy B. Gonzales

  12. tomas pablo san andres said,

    October 3, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Enrique

    that must be him, Eulogio Lopez.

    I heard “Eugenio Lopez” from Jack Pilar, but you must have the right first name, Eulogio instead of Eugenio.

    would you know more of Eulogio the portrait artist, was he from Bulacan and did portraits of Tondo patrons?

  13. Enrique Bustos said,

    October 2, 2010 at 2:07 am

    Dr Taddy

    I am not familiar with the works of Eugenio Lopez of Tondo but i know another artist by the same family name Eulogio Lopez who also did portraits during the same period

    Enrique

  14. September 25, 2010 at 3:08 am

    Raffy:

    There are certainly dealers who handle and collectors who buy Oscar Zalameda [ whom I knew personally ]. I will make inquiries and get back to you.

    Toto Gonzalez

  15. Raffy Remitio said,

    September 23, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    toto,

    i have a painting, oil on canvass, 18″ X 41″, dated 1971, by oscar de zalameda. i would appreciate it if you could point me in the right direction as to where to have it appraised and who to contact if i want to sell it. i am from bacolod city and do not have extensive contacts in manila. your help would be greatly appreciated. thanks.

    –raffy

  16. September 5, 2010 at 11:47 am

    were you referring to the pair of fernando amorsolo’s view from pinaglabanan and the pair pf pearl painting of rizal? one of the pearl painting was passed on to me by my grandparents.

  17. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    August 26, 2010 at 2:49 am

    Thanks, Enrique for the info on Pereira.

    How about the portraitist Eugenio Lopez, late 1800’s?
    He did some great portraits during that era in Tondo.

    In the 70’s there was a young restorer Susano “Jun” Gonzales.( young restorer, in his 30’s compared to the elderly art restorer Bernardo in his 60’s ).
    He retired in eastern Bulacan. Unfortunately he met his tragic death there, murdered I understand.

  18. August 23, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    flipchino808:

    Please be reminded:

    From now on, comments with no real names, no email addresses that can be confirmed, and no reliable identity checks will no longer be allowed.

    Please upload your comment again with the pertinent information.

    Thank you.

    Toto Gonzalez

  19. August 12, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Of course. They’re good at belated recognitions. 😛

  20. Enrique Bustos said,

    August 12, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Toto,

    Yes, the “Kundiman” by Fabian de la Rosa was declared “a masterpiece of national significance” by the Cultural Center of the Philippines AFTER it was acquired by PQ.

  21. Enrique Bustos said,

    August 8, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    The Painter is Jose Valdezco Pereira

  22. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    August 7, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Have you come across SR. JOAQUIN MA. HERRER?

    HE WAS A KNOWN SPANISH PROFESSOR IN ARTS AND WAS A PROFESSOR AND DIRECTOR AT THE ESCUELA ESPECIAL DE PINTURA, ESCULTURA Y GRABADO DE MANILA, circa 1890-1910 ( from an article by Mr. Martin Ocampo ).

    Prewar, there was a PEREIRA who painted, I do not recall the first name.

  23. Presy Guevara said,

    August 6, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    The story does not end til I know what happened to the art restorer. Please share. Thanks.

  24. Myles Garcia said,

    August 5, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Toto wrote: “Well, we all know what happened to the art restorer after that. End of story.”

    **************************************

    Well, I don’t, Toto. Pray tell, what happened?

    A private reply is fine. 😉

  25. August 3, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Enrique:

    Wasn’t “Kundiman” by Fabian de la Rosa declared “a masterpiece of national significance” by the CCP Cultural Center of the Philippines only after its acquisition by PQ?

    One can only marvel at the acts of the nation’s most enlightened minds.

    Toto Gonzalez

  26. Enrique Bustos said,

    August 3, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    I was really wondering why the “Kundiman” painting ended up with PQ. I never thought the heirs of Dr. LS would sell the “Kundiman” which was declared by the Cultural Center of the Philippines a “masterpiece of national significance.”

    A copy of Fabian de la Rosa’s most famous painting titled “Planting Rice” that won a gold medal in the 1904 St. Louis International Exposition is in the Malacanang Palace.

  27. Myles Garcia said,

    August 1, 2010 at 1:55 am

    Ooops…just found the link: http://www.globalpinoy.com/ch/ch_category.php?category=museums&name=UP-Jorge%20B.%20Vargas%20Museum%20and%20Filipiniana%20Research%20Centre&table=ch_museums&startpage=106&endpage=120

    It’s the Jorge B. Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center. Part of the description on the site says:

    “The art collection in the museum composes of oil paintings, watercolors, pastels, drawings, and sculptures. It holds the recognition of being the only art repository in the Philippines that features the entire range of artistic creativity from the 1880s to the 1960s.

    There, visitors can see the works of the late 19th century artists such as Lorenzo Guererro, Simon Flores, Juan Luna, and Felix Resurrecion Hidalgo. Collections from the later period include paintings done in the 1930s and 1940s like the works of Fabian dela Rosa and Fernando Amorsolo. There are also the works of Jorge Pineda, Vicente Rivera y Mir, and other artists referred to as the “Amorsolo School”. In the modernist section are the works of Victorio Edades, Juan Aralleno, Diosdado Lorenzo, along with those who were active in the 1950s.”

    So there folks, you apparently have another mini-museum to visit.

  28. Myles Garcia said,

    August 1, 2010 at 1:48 am

    Here’s another recollection that came to me: one of the colleges (must be the Fine Arts) at UP Diliman has an extensive collection of de la Rosa paintings (since FdlR) headed the UP School of Fine Arts at one time.

    I saw it online and sent them info re the portrait of my grandfather so they could have as complete a catalogue as possible. Of course, being a Philippine institution (and even connected with one of the higher learning institutions at that), we never heard back. One really wonders how the RP will ever progress if that’s the state of communication…

  29. Myles Garcia said,

    July 30, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    We have a portrait of my (paternal) grandfather by de la Rosa but my brother owns it; since he got close to my grandmother while staying with her when going to medical school at UP Padre Faura.

    There is a copy that hangs with other portraits of the other Regents of the Medical School of UP.

  30. July 29, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Don I see you are in fine form, carry on.

  31. Don Escudero said,

    July 27, 2010 at 10:40 am

    When Lolo was in Ateneo around the turn of the century, Fabian de la Rosa taught drawing there. Apparently Lolo was the star student, and his skill was evident in the existing drawings we inherited, some of which have the teacher’s remarks written on them, i presume in de la Rosa’s own hand. There was a contest, which Lolo was expected to win.Instead, a godson of de la Rosa’s was declared the winner. Lolo said his classmates, among whom was Claro M. Recto, wanted to hold a protest, since they felt Lolo should have won. He discouraged them from going on strike but he never drew or painted a picture again. He told me this when I asked him why he stopped drawing when he was so good at it.


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