Monday, September 06, 2004

The sculptor's particular attention to details could be seen in the close-up of the boy's face.

I've always been a big fan of Bea Zobel's column All4Art in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. She always writes about and highlights the local crafts and art jaded urbanites like us gloss over. She's been in different provinces talking about banig (woven mats) and barongs in Taal, wooden scultures in Laguna, and lot others. In today's column she shares about the treasure trove of Filipiniana she and her group of friends found in the Museo Nacional de Antrologia in Madrid, Spain. It turns out that these collections the museum houses were part of the collections sent to Spain in 1887 for a Philippine exposition (the one Jose Rizal and others riled about for making the foreigners think the scantily clothed tribal folks exhibited represent the level of Filipino civilization). One of the collections that Ms. Zobel pointed out as her favorite is a unique sculpture by Ciriaco Gaudinez y Javier titled "El Arraigo de Costumbres" which she writes about in length:
The work that intrigued me the most was a piece titled "El Arraigo de Costumbres" by Ciriaco Gaudinez y Javier (1848-1910). It shows a young boy carrying an open coffin with the body of a little girl inside. It is such a heartbreaking sculpture. The face of the boy is covered with tears, and one can really feel his pain as he brings his tiny burden to her grave. One wonders what the relationship between the bearer and the deceased is. The girl's dress is quite elaborate, contrasting with the simplicity of the wooden coffin and the plain clothes of the boy.

Is the boy her brother? But why is he so much more simply attired? Of course, the girl could have been arrayed in her best outfit in preparation-for burial. Could the boy be a faithful servant who had come to love the young daughter of the family that he worked for?

Whatever it is, there is no ambiguity about the anguished expression on the young boy's face. I was captivated by the talent of the carver.

Talent is clearly evident in all the items in the museum. In fact, one cannot but be proud at what one encounters. And one cannot but feel sad that so much is no longer available or even forgotten.
This brought out another interest for me to research about the local costumes during the late 1800s (which was majorly influenced by European trends) for one of my planned works. It also inspired me to search for the creepy 1800s custom of taking recently deceased family members' post mortem pictures for posterity, but that's another story. You could check out other fascinating collections at their online site.

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