National Artists pay homage to Rizal in Leon auction 2
Juanito Torres' La Solidaridad. Image courtesy of Leon Gallery

The National Hero in the eyes of National Artists at Leon Gallery September auction

Coinciding with the spirit of National Heroes Day, Leon Gallery celebrates the finest of Filipino artists who have paid homage to Jose Rizal with their works
ANCX Staff | Aug 27 2023

This 28th of August, we commemorate National Heroes’ Day. We remember our fellow Filipinos across history who have dedicated their lives fighting for the country’s independence and those who continue to dedicate themselves for such a noble cause. 

Coinciding with this spirit of patriotism, Leon Gallery celebrates the finest of Filipino artists who have paid homage to our national hero with their works in the The Magnificent September Auction 2023, happening this September 9, Saturday at 2:00 PM.

Emmanuel Garibay's Gunita
Lot 25. "Gunita" by Emmanuel Garibay. Signed and dated 2010 (lower left). Oil on canvas 72" x 48" (182 cm x 122 cm)

Among the works being offered is social realist Emmanuel Garibay’s Gunita, a large oil portrait of Dr. Jose Rizal painted in anticipation of the 150th birth anniversary of the renowned Ilustrado genius most widely recognized as our national hero.

Paying tribute to Rizal as well is National Artist Guillermo Tolentino with his sculpture Homage to Rizal and His ‘Triumph of Science over Death.’ In this piece, Tolentino references a sculpture by the ilustrado polymath Rizal whose work Triumph of Science over Death or Scientia, a celebration of the Enlightenment and reason, as well as a testament to the value of education. Filipino public historian Xiao Briones Chua notes that the Rizal piece Tolentino had referenced was part of a sculptural diptych by the national hero:

“Rizal was an eye doctor, a man of science. But he was also a novelist, poet and a visual artist. Yet in many of his artistic works, he still wanted to teach people the liberal philosophy and the importance of education.”

Guillermo Tolentino's Homage to Rizal and His 'Triumph of Science over Death'
Lot 19. Homage to Rizal and His 'Triumph of Science over Death' by Guillermo Tolentino. Signed and dated 1915. Plaster Height: 23" (58 cm)

The work depicts a naked woman holding a torch above a skull. Continues Chua: “The base of the statue shows a book, and on its spine the inscription SCIENTIA (This is unfortunately absent in many copies including the one fronting the UP College of Medicine, aka Lady Med). Historian Ambeth Ocampo clarifies that in Latin this word doesn’t only mean ‘science’ but ‘knowledge.’ This gives deeper meaning to the second statuette: All knowledge surpasses death, which is not just physical but can also pertain to poverty and enslavement. For Rizal, to be ignorant and uneducated meant to die anyway.”

Also referencing a piece from the works of Rizal in the upcoming auction is a rare Amorsolo. While Elias and Salome, an Amorsolo painting based on Rizal’s lost Noli Me Tangerechapter, was auctioned off at The Asian Cultural Council Auction 2023 last February, this time, Sisa, a 1934 piece by the renowned master of light makes its serendipitous sequel into the September auction. Historian Chua describes the ending scene between Elias and Basilio rendered in Sisa as Rizal’s message to the Filipino youth who are often regarded as the light and hope of a nation:

“In essence this was José Rizal’s exhortation to the Filipino Youth, ‘I die without seeing the dawn break on my country…. You who are about to see it, greet her… do not forget those who have fallen during the night’…”

Fernando Amorsolo's Sisa
Lot 102. "Sisa" by Fernando Amorsolo. Signed and dated, 1934 (lower right). Oil on canvas board. 19 1/4" x 13" (49 cm x 33 cm)

“Basilio, carried on to the second novel El Filibusterimo to become a student and a reformer. Historian José Victor Torres argues that the real ‘filibustero’ Rizal was referring to was not Simoun, but the Filipino Youth, exemplified by Basilio, who would be waging a revolution not to destroy, but to change the country.

“The painting is important not just because it was a National Artist’s take on the National Hero’s work, but because it depicts two of the most important characters in Philippine Literary History with the symbol of the motherland. The scene is both tragic but also hopeful.”

A painting from contemporary artist Juanito Torres also pays homage not just to Rizal, but to several familiar names from the Propaganda Movement who had been part of the La Solidaridad. In the work, Torres paints Rizal’s fellow ilustrados Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Mariano Ponce, Jose Maria Panganiban, Graciano Lopez Jaena, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, Juan Luna, and Antonio Luna. Artist Juanito Torres has been granted high praise by art critic and historian Alice Guillermo as among the likes of Neil Doloricon, Elmer Borlongan, and Mark Justiniani.

As the aforementioned pieces pay homage to Rizal, they also expand our notion of what a national hero is supposed to be: that beyond Rizal himself, it is anyone— much like our national artists— who continue to pave the way towards the rightful independence of the motherland.

The Magnificent September Auction is happening this September 9, 2023, 2 PM, at Eurovilla 1, Rufino corner Legazpi Streets, Legazpi Village, Makati City. Preview week is from September 2 to 8, 2023, from 9 AM to 7 PM. For further inquiries, email or contact +632 8856-27-81. To browse the catalog, visit Follow León Gallery on their social media pages for timely updates: Facebook - and Instagram @leongallerymakati.

Images courtesy of Leon Gallery