Filipino folk life is elevated and admired in National Artist Vicente Manansala’s masterpiece.
This is an excerpt from Lifestyle Asia’s July 2023 Issue.
Depicting a bucolic scene of a Filipino family hard at work, “Pounding Rice” by Vicente Manansala has just broken records as the most expensive work of the artist ever sold in the country at P40.8 million including buyer’s premium, at Leon Gallery’s most recent auction.
Dated 1973, the oil painting features a husband and wife, dehulling rice with a mortar and pestle, with three younger women engaged in various tasks. A grandmother sits with her straw baskets, sifting out the grain. It is a task that is both necessary and difficult requiring many hands, a homage to the Filipino values of unity within the household.
It is likewise a piece that holds a special significance for the artist, with a painting of the same theme having won him the top prize in 1941, at the First National Art Competition & Exhibition organized by the University of Santo Tomas.
Applying cubist constructs inspired by his trip to Paris, his “monumental figures” challenged the existing norms of his time. Nicknamed “Mang Enteng,” Manansala would in the 70’s become friends with four society ladies, including this painting’s previous owner, Delly Tambunting-Ongsiako.
Hailing from an esteemed merchant family, Ongsiako’s coterie of art-loving doyennes would often visit the artist at his house-slash-studio in Angono, Rizal, becoming friends with Manansala and his wife, and collecting his art.
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Banner photo courtesy of Leon Gallery.