The Spoliarium is a painting by Filipino painter Juan Luna. He spent eight months completing the painting on canvas. The picture recreates a despoiling scene in a Roman circus where dead gladiators are stripped of weapons and garments.
The painting was submitted by Juan Luna to the Exposicion National de Belles Artes in 1884 in Madrid, where it garnered the first gold medal(out of three). Together with other works of the Spanish Academy, the Spoliarium was on exhibit in Rome in April,1884.
In 1886, the painting was sold to the provincial government of Barcelona for 20,000 pesetas. It remained in storage until the museum was burned and looted during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. Upon orders of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, the damaged painting was sent to Madrid for restoration where it stayed for 18 years. The calls for the painting’s transfer to Manila by Filipinos and sympathetic Spaniards in the 1950s led to General Franco’s orders to finish the restoration and eventual donation to the Philippines. The painting was turned over to the Philippine Ambassador to Spain Manuel Nieto Sr. in January 1958 and later sent to the Philippines as a gift from the government of Spain.
Currently, the painting hangs in the main gallery at the first floor of the National Museum of Fine Arts in Manila and is the work of art that greet visitors upon entry into the Museum. The National Museum considers it the largest paintings in the Philippines with dimensions of 4.22 meters by 7.675 meters.
A beautiful replica of the SPOLIARIUM, a renowned painting by Juan Luna was donated to the Philippine Folklife Museum by Margarita Baxter-Lazaro, daughter of the late Dona Esperanza Baxter.
In 1980, Dona Esperanza Baxter commissioned a very talented painter, Mr. F. Espina, whom she met in the home of the Greek Ambassador Adamson to replicate the Spoliarium. The size of the painting on canvas is 37 inches x 50 inches.
The Spoliarium is a permanent exhibit at the Museo Ng Lahing Pilipino/ Philippine Folklife Museum and is available for viewing at the 5th Floor Philippine Consulate Building, 447 Sutter St. San Francisco.