Art in Chaos

After attending our first class, my friends and I went to the National Museum to check out Juan Luna’s Spoliarium. Last Monday, we were instructed to go there for our Introduction to Arts class (HUMAART). And so we went, for the love of the arts… and our HUMAART grade.

It was nice— the first building, the one that houses the Spoliarium, more than the second with archaeological artifacts, though. Nevertheless, I think my 50 pesos was well-spent. Hihi. And let me just say, I seriously thought we’d have a National Library 2.0 kind of experience. Thank goodness we did not.

I suggest you go here and enjoy everything. Bring a camera, too. Better yet, bring a camera AND go here when you have a lot of time, or no time restrictions at all. Go to every gallery open to public and visit the old Senate hall. I think I did not appreciate the second museum just as much as the first because we were all hungry and we have our next class at 1 PM. The experience as a whole was enjoyable, nevertheless :)


Standing way taller than anybody else, the Spoliarium is magnificent. I came to think, “How did he make this huge painting? His hips must be hurting so bad after, with the bending and all.” Plus, the colors he used went beyond those which only pleasure the eyes, and went on to tug something from the heart. I do not know how he did that, but the painting will surely make you feel something. As for me, it was aversion, almost disgust. The dark colors, which was mostly red and black and other dark hues, emphasized the dark scenario that Juan Luna presented. The depiction of the Spoliarium, which was the place where the dead gladiators’ bodies were put after the fight, maybe for pick up or to be disposed later on. The way I see it, the painting depicted a scene not so long after a fight. A body was almost very carelessly dragged to the right, while onlookers were trying to get a view on the left. There were also people on the right, which I assume are claiming some of the bodies, or trying to identify some. It was a rather disturbing picture, more than anything else. What could be more disturbing than the thought of room full of piles of dead gladiators? Right now, I really don’t know.

But what could be Juan Luna’s intention upon painting the Spoliarium? Is it plain adoration of the old times? Or is it something more? Surely not the Filipinos-oppressed-by-the-Spaniards interpretation again. But if not that, then what could be Juan Luna’s message to us? More importantly, is it just for us Filipinos?


If you ask me, I think Juan Luna is not a soldier in whatever form, trying to rebel against the Spaniards through his art. He is an artist, and he is an artist in the middle of a revolution. More than painting the dead gladiators, he is painting the death of morality and peace that he achieves through the strokes of his brush and the quiet of his study. Using the gladiators meant the huge loss during a fight, for gladiators usually look like big, bad bullies. But the loss is not in the blood or the bodies or the money or the horses and all resources left to burn, but in the peace that is shattered and the heart and soul that is darkened due to the will to win, even if it means death to you or to others. Juan Luna tries to send the message of everything that is lost in a fight, from whatever side you are in, everybody loses. All sides have their casualties, for from the very beginning, they have lost the humanity left in them by choosing to maim and to kill. But I do not like to think Juan Luna is an overall pessimistic person. The people to the right side of the painting– the mourners– is the hope he has left, and that’s quite few, considering most of the weight of the painting is on the left side, with all the people trying to get a good look of the dead gladiators. The small, kind of distributed crowd to the right is the little hope, and the mourners of the death of morality. They are the peace-lovers, and soon to be peacemakers, hopefully. They stay on the right, away from the mad crowd, for the value of peace and quiet, and the upcoming redemption of everything that is lost. Meanwhile, the crowd on the left side are the prospective gladiators. They are the people ready, willing even, to fight, and to lose everything that has been lost by many already– morality, peace and solitude. They are the mad crowd, they are the fighters of the revolution, and they are just as mcuh the losers as the people on the right side are the winners.