The Parisian Life
by Juan Luna
Interior d’un Café (Parisian Life), an oil in canvas impressionist painting, by Juan Luna Y Novicio (1857-1899) was exhibited in 1904 at the St Louis Exposition (World’s Fair) and was acquired by the GSIS in 2002 at Christie’s in Hong Kong at the price of $870000 (around P45.4 to P46 million). Luna completed the painting in Paris before he returned to his home country to join the Philippines’ Propaganda Movement.
Ariston Bautista Lin, one of the characters in the painting, was the original owner of The Parisian Life.
Parisian Life portrays a woman looking down, somewhat unhappy or disappointed. beside her is a coat/jacket, a newspaper placed at base of the window and two cups (one is half-filled) on the table, which give an impression that she was deserted by her companion. There are three men chatting or conversing in a round table. Many believe that they were Juan Luna facing forward in the center, Dr. Jose Rizal’s half turn back and Ariston Bautista Lin, sitting the closest to the lady.
Many historians say that the painting portrays the mirrored image of the map of the Philippines. If we reverse the painting, it will look like the structure of the Philippine archipelago. This will lead as to another impression, that of isolation. Still, another observation is the placing of the head of the lady opposite the frame of the window and her choker or neckband. It gives an impression that the lady is strangled or hanged.
If we put these observations together, we see a picture of an “isolated and hanged archipelago” during the time of Spanish colonization of the Philippines.