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18th-19th Century Filipino Copper Engravings at the Ayala Museum

November 01, 2004

Filipino colonial copper engravings will be on exhibit at the Ayala Museum’s 2nd Floor Museum Space on November 12-28, 2004. The art of copper engraving flowered in the 18th century when the Nicolas dela Cruz Bagay, Francisco Suarez, Laureano Atlas, and their guilds produced the most excellent estampas. Little is known about the lives if these artists; but we are fortunate to know some of their work preserved today. Though conquistadors fed them with European examples to copy, iconography inevitably changed in native hands. For example, instead of using the western eight-head human proportion, they used only a count of six or seven as natives had shorter anatomy. Their isometric designs and&nbs p; relative flatness were inspired by a milieu of church retablos, virinas, sacramental objects, home altars, bahay kubo, and religious street dramas. It is these charming nuances that make these engravings distinctive.

Engravings are treasured rarities as such specimens were items of daily use that underwent wear and tear in the practice of piety and devotion. Moreover, many of those compiled in books at our national archives and library were destroyed during the second world war.

The fine pieces featured are restrikes handprinted from the original images and copper engravings by Francisco Suarez, Vicente Atlas, Phelipe Sevilla, Ysidro Paulino, and anonymous artists. Most were part of a heritage revitalization project which Imelda Cajipe Endaya, artist, printmaker and writer, did with the late Rev. Fr. Jesus Merino Antolinez O.P. and artist-historian Dr. Rod Paras Perez some twenty five years ago and were included in the book Filipino Engraving published by the defunct Ylang Ylang Graphic Group. The Suarez-Atlas engraving was cited by art historian Santiago Pilar in the exhibit-catalogue “Limbag Kamay.”

The museum is open daily 10:00 a.m.- 7 :00 pm , Tuesday to Sunday. Entrance to Museum Space is free; go by the 2nd floor pedestrian bridge.