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Luna y Novicio, Juan
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Luna y Novicio, Juan

Badoc (Philippines), 1857 - Hong-Kong (China), 1899

See author's file


1881. Oil on canvas.
Room 061A

In Cleopatra, Luna dramatises the death of the Egyptian queen, a longstanding and popular subject in European painting. As penned by the Greek biographer Plutarch, Cleopatra was discovered dead in her chamber by Augustus Caesar´s men, dressed in her royal ornaments on her golden bed; one handmaiden, Iras, was dead at her feet, while the other, Charmion, was on the verge of collapsing. Luna captures this moment with a striking composition that is rich in colour and exquisite detail, from the distinct carvings and embellished fabrics to the gold jewellery. Barely noticeable in the painting is the tail of an asp peeking from the base of the right pillar, revealing Luna´s partiality to the popular theory that Cleopatra committed suicide by get-ting bitten by the poisonous snake. Luna won his first major prize in Europe, a Second Class medal at Spain´s 1881 Exposición General de Bellas Artes (General Exhibition of Fine Arts), with this painting. Also known as the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes, Spain´s national art exhibition took place every two to three years from 1856 to 1968, and hewed to the standards of Spain´s premier art school, the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando) in Madrid. While Luna had studied there, he made this painting after settling in Rome, having followed his teacher and mentor, the Spanish artist Alejo Vera, from Madrid. At the same 1881 exhibition, Vera won a First Class medal for El Último día de Numancia (The Last Day of Numancia), which depicts the Roman siege of an ancient settlement in Spain. Like Vera´s painting, Luna´s Cleopatra conformed to the academic tastes of the Spanish national exhibitions: a preference for large scale, highly theatrical works featuring historical events. Cleopatra drew the attention of the Spanish media: La Ilustracion Española y Americana acknowledged it as a "cuadro del artista filipino" (painting of a Filipino artist) and published an engraving of it. As a result of Luna´s award, the City Council of Manila granted him a scholarship to continue his studies in Rome. This early recognition of his talent was prescient, for Luna would win a First Class medal—and lasting fame for himself and the Philippines—at the next Spanish national exhibition in 1884 with the work, Spoliarium.

G. Navarro, Carlos, 'Juan Luna's cursus honorum in Spain: Laurels and Thorns' En:. Between Worlds: Raden Saleh and Juan Luna, Singapur, National Gallery Singapore,, 2017, p.124-131 [125-128]

Technical data

Inventory number
Luna y Novicio, Juan
Height: 250 cm; Width: 340 cm

Bibliography +

Catalogo Provisional del Museo de Arte Moderno, Colegio Nacional de Sordomudos, Madrid, 1899, pp. nº221.

Museo de Arte Moderno, Catálogo provisional del Museo de Arte Moderno., Imp. del Colegio Nacional de Sordomudos y de Ciegos, Madrid, 1900, pp. nº411.

Ossorio y Bernard, M., Galería biográfica de artistas españoles del Siglo XIX, Giner, Madrid, 1975, pp. 394.

Pantorba, B. de, Historia y crítica de las Exposiciones Nacionales de Bellas Artes, Jesús Ramón García Rama, Madrid, 1980, pp. 117.

Exposiciones nacionales del siglo XIX: premios de pintura, Centro Cultural del Conde Duque, Ayuntamiento, Concejalía de Cultura, Madrid, 1988, pp. nº25.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, III, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996, pp. nº513.

Discovering Philippine Art in Spain, Department of Foreign Affairs, Manila, 1998, pp. 225.

Orihuela, Mercedes y Cenalmor, Elena, El ''Prado disperso''. Obras depositadas en Córdoba y Sevilla. I. Córdoba. Instituto Séneca, Boletín del Museo del Prado, 20, 2002, pp. 159.

Díez, José Luis (dir.), Pintura del Siglo XIX en el Museo del Prado: catálogo general, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. 349.

Ocampo, A. R, 'Juan Luna. A brush with History' En:, Between Worlds: Raden Saleh and Juan Luna, National Gallery Singapore,, Singapur, 2017, pp. 112-123 [113 l.66 f.4].

G. Navarro, Carlos, 'Juan Luna's cursus honorum in Spain: Laurels and Thorns' En:, Between Worlds: Raden Saleh and Juan Luna, National Gallery Singapore,, Singapur, 2017, pp. 124-131 [125-128].

Other inventories +

Actas del envío de cuadros del Prado al Museo de Arte Moderno. Núm. 513.

Catálogo Museo de Arte Moderno, 1900. Núm. 411.
SECCIÓN DE PINTURA EN SUS DIVERSAS CLASES, DIBUJOS Y GRABADOS EN LÁMINAS. / Luna y Novicio (D. Juan) [...] 411.- Muerte de Cleopatra. (En depósito). / Alto 2'50 metros. Ancho 3'40 metros.

Inv. General del Museo de Arte Moderno, 1899-1902. Núm. 182.

Catálogo Museo de Arte Moderno, 1899. Núm. 221.
SECCIÓN DE PINTURA EN SUS DIVERSAS CLASES, DIBUJOS Y GRABADOS EN LAMINAS. / LUNA Y NOVICIO (D. Juan) [...] 221.- Cleopatra. / Alto 2'50 metros. Ancho 3'40 metros.

Registros-Inventarios Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno, 1900-1936. Núm. 34-L y 52-L.

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 513.
513 / Autor Dn Juan Luna / un cuadro que representa Cleopatra / Alto 2.50 ancho 3,40 mts. // [nota al margen=] Adquirido en 5000 pesetas; Procedente de la Expopsicion de Bellas Artes de 1881 Rl. O. de 30 de Junio 1881. // [con otra grafía=] Pasó al Museo de A. M.

Catálogo Museo de la Trinidad, 1889. Núm. 155.
LUNA (D. JUAN). / Natural de Manila (Filipinas), / discípulo de D. Alejo Vera y de la / Escuela especial de Pintura, Escultura / y Grabado. / 155— Cleopatra. / «Mas la muerte fué tan repentina, / que los enviados de César hallaron / los guardias que nada sabían; y / abiertas las puertas, la encontraron / muerta y estada sobre su lecho de / oro, adornada con majestad real, y / muerta igualmente su esclava Ida / á sus piés; Carmione, la otra, semi / muerta y grave, la ceñía y arreglaba / la diadema, cual convenía á / reina descendiente de tantos reyes; / y sin decir palabra, cayó también / no lejos del lecho.» / (Plutarco: Vidas paralelas.—Antonio) / Alto, 2,50 metros.—Ancho, 3,40 metros.

Inscriptions +

Luna. Roma, 1881
Signed and dated. Front, lower right corner

T. 513
Inscribed in white. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

Raden Saleh and Juan Luna
Singapur, Ciudad de
15.11.2017 - 12.03.2018

Exposiciones Nacionales del Siglo XIX. Premios de Pintura (1856-1900)
06.06.1988 - 24.07.1988

Location +

Room 061A (On Display)


Displayed objects +


Update date: 28-01-2022 | Registry created on 24-11-2016

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