The Murillo Velarde map sold for a P40 million hammer price. Photograph by Steve Lim
Culture Spotlight

In 4 minutes, 'Mother of all Philippine maps' sold for P46.72 million

The map is known to have contributed to winning our case against China in The Hague.
ANCX Staff | Sep 14 2019

It took a mere four minutes between the introduction of the piece to the striking of the hammer. The much talked-about 1734 map of Las Yslas Filipinas was sold this afternoon at Php 40 million pesos (excluding buyer's premium of 16.8%) at the Leon Gallery’s The Magnificent September Auction. Called The Extraordinarily Important and Exceedingly Rare Murillo Velarde Map of 1734, it was practically begging to find a new home. 

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John Silva, who once tended to a collector’s wealth of rare maps, the auctioned piece among them, wrote about the map last week for ANCX, describing it as “a large, sumptuous, sharp and detailed image of the whole Las Yslas Filipinas. It was bordered by 12 intricate vignettes covering flora and fauna, various peoples, foreigners, map insets, outlying islands—a most extensive compendium of Spain’s most distant colony.” Filipino cartographer Nicolas de la Cruz Bagay, a known engraver, was commissioned to do the map by the Jesuit priest Pedro Murillo Velarde. 

Dr. Steve Lim of online auction Art Rocks said it was quite warm inside the bidding room of Leon Gallery this afternoon, and the tension over who will win the map didn’t help. People started clapping their hands when the bidding reached the Php 28 million mark. It was a bidding war between a gentleman near the podium and a lady seated at the back end of the auction floor. Describing the battle like a boxing-like match, Lim messaged ANCX: “Male gave uppercut but madam swerved. Madam then landed a haymaker at 40M pounds of force. KO na.” 

Murillo Velarde map Library of Congress Collection.

The piece has been called the “Mother of all maps.” Map collector Jaime Laya referred to it once as “the Holy Grail of Philippine cartography.” What made the map even more desirable, apart from its rarity, was the fact that it was used in the Hague Court proceedings to establish the territorial integrity of the Western Philippine Seas. Mel Velarde acquired it at a Sotheby’s auction in 2014 for P12 million, 34 million less than what it sold for today. 

Meanwhile, Danilo Dalena’s oil work from 2000 called Naninilip sold for P6.5 million, from a starting price of P3.2 million. A denim jacket bearing Anita Magsaysay-Ho’s girls with fan painting sold for P5 million, while a first edition El Filibusterismo hardcover sold for P1.9 million. Hidalgo’s The Country Women, a signed work in oil, went for P13 million.