The eureka moment—that undeniable thrill, that sudden rush—was what a noted scholar of Philippine art history and ethnography had upon seeing Jose Honorato Lozano’s original and extremely rare 19th century tipos del pais— watercolor paintings whose literal meaning is “types of the country.” They will go on the block at the Salcedo Auctions’ Important Philippine Art’ sale on March 13.
What immediately caught the specialist’s eye was a detail that perhaps many would overlook: the length of one of the men’s trousers. 19th century men’s fashion in the Philippines was an eclectic mix of thin shirts of local fibers, tailored European jackets, and Chinese-style trousers, worn together with enviable aplomb. What designers now do consciously and with great care, our 19th century gentry and working class alike treated as part of everyday life.
These tipos del pais are the closest references we have to a time before photography. One can easily imagine artists like Lozano walking the cobblestone streets of the Walled City with a sketchbook and paints—looking for an everyday scene to immortalize. A native of Sampaloc, Lozano would go about his work day paying close attention to activities unfolding around him—the everyday scenery of the 19th century. This practice led to an unintended contribution to Philippine fashion history.
As it turns out, the discovery of this watercolor in pristine condition in Europe helped explain the presence of cropped Chinese-style bottoms of Philippine origin in several European museum collections. It was a cross-cultural encounter just waiting to be uncovered.
This genius remains obscure because his character is naturally timid
Not much is known about Lozano besides the fact that he was born in Manila to a lighthouse keeper at Manila Bay and grew up in Sampaloc just outside Intramuros. The precise year of his birth and death are unclear. Most of what is known about his life comes from archival and bibliographic research by Santiago Albano Pilar who cites a 19th-century book entitled Memorias Históricas y Estadísticas de Filipinas by Rafael Díaz Arenas (Manila,1850):
There is a landscape painter…who is also a water colorist without rival
in the country; however, he lives quietly and his name is little known…
I speak of Lozano, a resident of Sampaloc…This genius remains obscure
because his character is naturally timid. His father was the Palace vigía
for many many years and without doubt he was raised at the latter’s side,
viewing through the lenses of the telescope the ships that entered through
Corregidor. His countrymen know him better by the name of Pepe-bahía
or vigia rather than by his surname of Lozano.
Lozano is the most well-known practitioner of the 19th-century painting genre known as letras y figuras (“letters and figures”) showing intertwined human figures spelling the patron’s name. He also painted several tipos del país watercolors showing local inhabitants, garments, and occupations, usually compiled into bound albums. The earliest known complete album of tipos del país by Lozano is dated 1847 which is now at the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid.
No detail was too mundane for Lozano, as the varied nuances of everyday life were faithfully depicted in his body of work.
The second watercolor, Gallera, is noticeably slightly different from his other cockpit scenes in the commissioned album he created for the Spanish Government. Gallera shows a makeshift tent of wood and dried coconut leaves— a far cry from the typical multi-level complexes that housed these cockfighting events. Yet, it’s this subtle change that makes this painting all the more collectible and distinctive.
Lozano was an astute chronicler of everyday life during the colonial period. Without his tipos del pais, aspects of everyday life in the early 19th century would have been lost to time or left solely to one’s imagination. As such, his works are an extremely valuable record of our history, providing a glimpse into the idyllic imaginings of a bygone era
Jose Honorato Lozano’s Indios Tagalos and Gallera are among the highlights of the Salcedo Auctions’ Important Philippine Art & Furniture sale, set to go on live and online auction on Saturday, March 13, 2021, 2 p.m. The online catalogue is available at salcedoauctions.com.
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