The Cursed Juan Luna Painting

Have you visited the National Museum of the Philippines? Well, I've been there many times, and almost nothing changed. Just this October 2015 (when the museum was free to everyone - NO FEES needed to pay), I went there with my friends. First, I thought the place will be almost empty of visitors and tourists just like the last time, and surprisingly you can see people anywhere.

There's one painting by Juan Luna depicting a beautiful white woman holding a rosary, and rumored having a curse. It was said, whoever owns it, (s)he will be cursed with bad luck. But before we go to the main event, let's first know who Juan Luna is.

Who is Juan Luna?

Juan Luna y Novicio (or simply Juan Luna) was born October 23rd of 1857. He was one of the first artists from the Philippines ever recognized internationally, winning a gold medal in the 1884 Madrid Exposition of Fine Arts. He is also one of the celebrated members of the Propaganda Movement of the illustrados (or more comparable to Erudites of Divergent, because they are the educated class of the Spanish-Filipino caste system) studying and working overseas together with Dr. Jose Rizal. Most of his paintings depict historical events with a symbolic and political meaning. One of them, and my favorite, is the Spoliarium. It pictures a slave dragging a dead body of a gladiator.

With his brother, Manuel Luna, they went to Europe to study. Unlike his brother who studied music, he took painting in Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. He befriended Don Alejo Vera, who was also a painter. Being not contented with the teachings of his school, he decided to go work with Don Vera. He was brought to Rome and was exposed with the Renaissance painters.

His artistic talent sprouted with the opening of the first art exposition in Madrid - Exposición Nacional de Bellas Arte. In 1881, he won silver medal for his painting La Muerta de Cleopatra (The Death of Cleopatra). Then on the next exhibition, he won three gold medals for his Spoliarium.

Married Life

I'm not being exaggerated with his life that I even included his marriage. I tell you, this is still part of the urban legend.

December 8, 1886, he married Maria de la Paz Pardo de Tavera. They got one son named Andres, and a daughter who died in infancy. Their marriage could have been fine if Juan Luna is not always attacked by his jealousy. He loved his wife so much that he liked to paint her.

Due to his envy, suspecting that she had an affair with someone else, he killed his wife and his mother-in-law. Both of them locked themselves in a room escaping the rage of Juan Luna, and Luna upon entering, he shot them both which caused their death. But that was one of the version of the said event. In other version of how he killed his wife and mother-in-law, Luna didn't enter the room. He just shot them from outside. Of course the bullet will penetrate on the door. Accidentally (or intentionally), the two women were shot dead. Yet, another story is that he personally shot them one by one. Well, it was not an urban legend, so I would rather let the historians explain to you what really happened. The Pardo de Taveras, Lunas and some historians got their own version.

He was acquitted of charges unwritten in the law (it was a crime of passion), and only paid a sum of money to his wife's family. After that, Juan Luna together with his other brother and son - Antonio Luna and Andres, they went to Madrid.

The Pardo de Tavera family erased all his depictions on their pictures.

The Painting

This picture (in the left) was said to be the rumored cursed painting of Juan Luna. Don't worry, bad luck will not leech you by just looking at it.

According to stories, the soul of Maria de la Paz Pardo de Tavera possessed the painting and whoever owns it, they will experience the hardest bad luck they can imagine.

The first owner of the painting was Manuel Garcia, a successful businessman before he owned the painting. Then, years after, his business was bankrupt. Then, Betty Bantug Benitez got the painting. She was one of the people behind the construction of the Manila Film Center. On her way in Tagaytay City, she met an accident which caused her death. Tony Nazareno was the next one who owned the image, and go sick.

It was also sold to Imee Marcos, and it was rumored that the painting cause her miscarriage. On the Oro-Plata Exhibition for the creations of Hidalgo and Luna, the painting was not named to Imee but to her mother - Mrs. Imelda Marcos. And you know what happened next - their family was overruled by the EDSA Revolution.

The painting was donated to the Museum after. Until now, it's there.


As an update, the painting is actually not Juan Luna's wide - Maria de la Paz Pardo de Tavera. The girl was, well, a Parisian prostitute (as others call her.) Most of Juan Luna's paintings with a girl, depicts her. Obviously, she was a favorite inspiration and model to him as she was always found on most of Luna's paintings. Being always the model, it is possible that she was often with the artist. I even think, she is one of the reason why the marriage of Maria and Juan slowly deteriorates. Even though the conflict before the killing happened after their youngest child's death, she was not an exemption on the causes. It was just my opinion.

The Me Novia, being not Maria dela Paz Pardo de Tavera, as my conclusion, is not cursed at all. Possibly, the incidents connected to it just a mere coincidence.

Last Update:
February 28, 2016

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