Entry 079


Sculpture 06: National Arts Gallery Pediment

Did you ever notice the sculptures at the pediment of the National Museum’s main building (National Arts Gallery)? The façade is reminiscent of the classical Greek temples. Naturally some architectural elements prominent in old Greek temples are copied into the neoclassical structures. And such are the reliefs at the pediment. I am not sure who the sculptor was but I assume it to be Otto Fischer-Credo. He was a German sculptor who worked with architect Juan Arellano on several projects in the 1920s. (You can read Lou Gopal’s blog Manila Nostalgia about his “discovery” of Fischer-Credo.)

Any onlookers would have strained their eyes looking at the pediment reliefs. Their relative position at the topmost part of the building would render them inconspicuous at close range and unnoticeable from afar. So the best way to appreciate them is by using binoculars. I photographed them using zoom lens. I can say I was given a glimpse of such a marvelous manifestation of Philippine neoclassical high art. Here are the figures found at the east pediment.

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The central figure, most likely the personification of Motherland, wears a terno and holds a sceptre and an orb; on her sides are a male warrior with a sword and a young maiden. Other figures at the edge of the pediment are most likely from Greek mythology. The one capped with a winged helmet probably is Hermes.

The west pediment, which is seen from Padre Burgos Avenue, has almost the same figures but of slight different visages.

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The composition of figures in the west pediment are the same with those in the east pediment. However, nuances exist as in the star-tipped sceptre and the faces of the three central figures.

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Noticeably, Motherland doesn’t hold an orb.

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Greek influence is evident.

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Hermes and a muscle-toned woman in recline.

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6 thoughts on “Entry 079

  1. It’s a shame I’ve never been to National Museum even once. :c I-tour mo ko, Shinji? Gusto ko isama yung Chinese friend ko bago siya umalis ng Pilipinas. 🙂

  2. I think the pediment figures are as follows (L to R):
    Muse (History)/Nymph? – Law/Power (fasces) – Mindanao – Luzon (or Patria since she is queen reminiscent of the then-prevalent Manila Carnivals) – Visayas – Commerce/Trade (Mercury with a snake-less caduceus reclining on a cargo (balikbayan?) box) – Muse (Memory/Thought?)/Nymph?

    I’m sure the pediment survived the taste-less reconstruction of the 50-60’s

    Notice Luzon/Motherland(Patria)’s outfit is the complete baro’t saya in the configured traje de mestiza-type in the current fashion trend when the Legislative Building was constructed (completed 1926).
    (“complete” meaning baro/camisa, saya, pañuelo, & tapis. Yes the baro’t saya is a 4-piece attire, unlike the very modernized, awkward, & tasteless one-piece so current today)

    Visayas is wearing the balintawak (for country outings, its noticeable accesory is the alampay)

      • I take back my stance on “the pediments survived the 50-60’s”.
        But you’re right about the “slight different visages” tho: the side sculptures do look different from each other.

        I’ve been to Lou Gopal’s site, and looking & comparing the pre-war (supplied by Fischer-Credo) and the post-Liberation pictures, the Padre Burgos-side pediment ALSO SUFFERED.
        Around 30% I think…
        -Mindanao got beheaded. The reconstruction’s facial features are somehow cramped…I suppose he originally looks like the Taft-side
        -3/4’s of Luzon/Patria’s upper body got blasted off, and I think part of her tapis and saya. Her reconstructed right arm is now raised by around 40-45 degrees (originally similar to the Taft-side), the reconstructed “scepter” now looks like something resembling Sailor Moon’s wands, her orb is gone (her left arm survived but I’m not sure about the hand, which I suppose originally had an orb as well), & her tapis lost its scultpural folds/wrinkles.

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