‘Urduja’ comes home
URDUJA, an oil painting on canvas by leading postwar muralist Antonio Gonzales Dumlao, will soon adorn the walls of the Urduja House, the official residence of the Pangasinan governor in Lingayen town.
Two weeks ago, the provincial board authorized Gov. Amado Espino Jr. to buy the 40” x 30” painting, which is now owned by Luis Villanueva.
Provincial administrator Rafael Baraan says Villanueva offered to sell the painting to the province upon the behest of his aging mother, prewar magazine journalist and socialite Corazon Grau Villanueva, who told him that was “where it rightfully belongs.”
“As the old Villanueva lady wishes, and which we think is the right thing to do, the governor is planning to put it inside the Urduja House to serve as one of the major cultural pieces that will be displayed,” Baraan says.
Princess Urduja was a legendary warrior believed to have ruled the dynastic Kingdom of Tawalisi, a vast area lying by the shores of the Lingayen Gulf and the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
In his attestation, Villanueva says the painting of the half-naked Urduja was acquired by his parents from Dumlao himself at the close of the 1954 Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) exhibit in Manila. The painting won third prize in the conservative painting category in the AAP annual contest.
“For years, it hung at the Villanueva family’s weekend farm retreat in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. It was eventually transferred to my parents’ private gallery … where it remained prominently displayed for three decades,” Villanueva says.
He received the the painting as a gift on his 47th birthday.
Baraan says the price offered for the painting is P650,000. “We are still negotiating. I think it’s a good price for a rare and old painting by a famous artist of national and international prominence. I think this is very cheap,” he says.
An old reproduction of the “Princess Urduja,” by Fernando Amorsolo, hangs on the wall of the governor’s office at the Urduja House.
In his blog (https://antoniodumlao.wordpress.com), Dumlao’s grandson, Albert, says his grandfather, who studied at the University of the Philippines’ School of Fine Arts in 1923, was also a famous restoration artist.
“When Juan Luna’s ‘Spoliarium’ was shipped over from Spain, the canvas was rolled in three portions so that the oil cracked and the work was badly [damaged]. Dumlao took up the major restoration job from July 1960 to 1961 at the [Department of] Foreign Affairs on Padre Faura. Dumlao also restored several other Lunas, Hidalgos, and Amorsolos,” the young Dumlao says.
In 1979, Dumlao was invited to New Orleans in Louisiana to sign his mural, “Philippine Dances,” which was exhibited in the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
Dumlao died in 1983.