Parisian Life is an 1892 painting done by Juan Luna. 44 inches by 39 inches, it shows an unidentified French woman in the foreground sitting in a restaurant. To one side, Jose Rizal, Dr. Ariston Bautista Lin, and Luna himself can be seen. The painting is now in the collection of the GSIS Museo ng Sining.
Some controversy surrounded the purchase of the work for the sum of 45.4 million pesos by the GSIS when it was auctioned by Christie's in 2002, given that its artistic merit is not particularly outstanding in comparison to Luna's other works. The amount is considered justified by the painting's historical importance.
Interpretations of the painting
GSIS museum director Eric Zerrudo sugeests that there are three possible interpretations of the work.
The first one is that the woman was a courtesan who caught the eye of the three Filipino patriots while they were discussing affairs regarding their homeland in the cafe.
Another interpretation is that the painting hints at Luna's family problems. Close to the time of the painting's completion, Luna was struggling with personal tragedies--the death of his infant daughter and his suspicion his wife was having an affair with a French doctor. The half-empty beer mug in the table in front of the woman and the coat on the sofa may be suggestive symbolisms.
Zerrudo's third theory on the painting is that the woman in the painting may be intended to represent the Philippines, her form suggesting a mirror image of the Philippine archipelago. What appear to be artistic flaws in the painting--the dark neck of the woman and the awkward placement of her head against a window joint which thus appears to jut out of her head--may have been intentionally done to symbolize the state of the Philippines at that time.
What is certain, Bienvenido Lumbera points out, is that Juan Luna was a master painter whose works should be valued, and that the painting has historical significance as it depicts a typical scene in the lives of Philippine patriots staying in Europe.
Ellorin, Benycrus. "Juan Luna and our Heritage." in Sunstar Cagayan de Oro, 12 October 2003. www.sunstar.com.ph/static/cag/2003/10/12/life/juan.luna.and.our.heritage.html
Lumbera, Bienvenido. "The Cost of Saving our Cultural Heritage." http://www.ncca.gov.ph/about_cultarts/articles.php?artcl_Id=66
bestofpinoys.manila.ph/news/6320080.htm Manila Bulletin. Top Filipino Art Works Draw Crowds to Museo ng Sining