MANILA, Philippines — An auction house has stopped the sale of a bronze bust of the Filipino historical figure Juan Luna following a request from National Museum of the Philippines.
According to Salcedo Auctions, this was a “gesture of goodwill” in view of the artifact’s origins.
Juan Luna was a well-known international Filipino painter, sculptor and a prominent political activist during the Philippine revolution.
“The decision was arrived at by the bust’s current owners as a gesture of goodwill in light of a request made by the National Museum in consideration of the bust’s possible provenance (origin),” Salcedo Auctions said in a Facebook post on Friday.
The bust, which was sculpted by Spanish artist Mariano Benlliure, was scheduled to be auctioned on September 16.
Salcedo Auctions also explained there was no ownership claim from any entity, even after its publications by Chronicle Magazine and Filipinas Heritage Library.
This led them to initially include the bust in the auction.
“Since the owners’ acquisition of the piece, there have been no claims of ownership by the National Museum or any other private or public institution, despite the fact that it had been featured on the cover of Chronicle Magazine in 1967, and was catalogued by the Filipinas Heritage Library,” it explained.
“Hence, the decision to put the bust up for auction,” it concluded.
The current owner of the piece is MIB Capital Corporation, formerly Multinational Investment Bancorporation, which bought it from Elsie Cadapan.
Cadapan acquired it from a junk dealer after the Battle of Manila, where it was lost in the destruction of the Legislative Building of the then-National Library and National Museum.
These information are based on the bust’s description on Salcedo Auctions’ website.
National Museum made the request to block the auction of the piece in a letter dated September 8.
It said the item may be a lost public property.
“As such may we request that Salcedo Auctions put the sale of Lot 39, Bust of Juan Luna y Novicio by Mariano Benlliure, on hold, and that we discuss the matter further at the soonest opportunity,” National Museum director-general Jeremy Barns stated in the letter.
“If this is, indeed, a case where the object is lost public property, then I am sure you agree that it must somehow be recovered by the government through appropriate and, hopefully, amicable means and that your support and cooperation in such an endeavor would be vital,” Barns added.
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