MANILA — Juan Luna's iconic painting, "Hymen, oh Hymeenèe," has been rediscovered in Europe after more than a century of being lost to the public.
Regarded as the "Holy Grail of Philippine Art," the painting was awarded the bronze medal in the 1889 Paris World Fair, and features a Roman wedding from Luna's perspective.
The masterpiece had not been seen by the public since it was in Luna's possession until his death in 1899.
Recently, the painting was discovered by art collector Jaime Ponce de Leon after an almost 10-year search.
"One day in 2014, I got a call and at a doorstep of a certain aristocratic home. And there I was, I could not believe what was revealed to me, it was the grail," de Leon said.
The painting is now display at the Ayala Museum in Makati City in commemoration of the Philippines' 125th Independence Day on June 12.
"There's an opportunity to make a significant exhibition and the opportunity to showcase a Juan Luna painting that's never been seen in the Philippines before," said Mariles Gustilo, senior director of Ayala Museum.
For Manet Dayril, an art enthusiast who had the opportunity to witness the display, it was an impressive showcase of Luna's work.
"My whole life I have always been interested in Juan Luna and it was interesting to have seen the work of Juan Luna that has never seen before more than a hundred years," Dayril said.
Renowned historian Ambeth Ocampo also weighed in on the importance of Luna's legacy.
"Pinakita niya na ang Pilipino, na ang taong galing sa malayong isla ay kasing galing o mas magaling pa doon sa mga tao sa Madrid," Ocampo said.
"Ang ginawa ni Luna nung panahon na iyon, parang si Lea Salonga ngayon na kumakanta sa West End, si Manny Pacquiao na nanalo sa boxing. Luna is an inspiration to us to become better than we are," he added.