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When the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines in 1521, the colonizers used art as a tool to propagate the Catholic faith through beautiful images. With communication as problem, the friars used images to explain the concepts behind Catholicism, and to tell the stories of Christ’s life and passion. Images of the Holy Family and the saints were introduced to the Filipino psyche through carved santos, the via crucis (Stations of the Cross), engravings on estampas and estampitas, and through paintings on church walls. Though the ethnic art forms such as pottery, weaving and metalwork were retained, the Spanish friars and the Chinese, the colony’s primary trading partner, were slowly introducing newer art forms. Icons brought by the friars were used as models for sculpture. Filipino artisans were taught the Chinese brushwork technique in painting. Engraving was also introduced. The concept of patronage emerged. Artisans were commissioned and paid to carve, engrave, and paint. They replaced the arts that were once done in a communal spirit and community setting for rituals. The church, particularly the friars, became the new patron of the arts. Since most art produced during the first two centuries of Spanish occupation were for the church, the friars enforced strict supervision over their production. Until the 19th century, art was only for the church and religious use. Early in the 19th century, with the opening of the Suez canal in 1869 and the development of the agricultural export economy, native indios acquired economic wealth and became what was to be called the "ilustrados,"meaning enlightened and educated. These developments paved the way for Filipinos ilustrados to send their children to universities in Europe. The rise of the "ilustrado" (Filipinos with money and education) class was inevitable. The ilustrados became the new patron of the arts. These events paved the way for the secularization of art in the 19th century. A. Painting

The Spanish friars introduced Western painting in the Philippines to artisans who learned to copy on two-dimensional form from the religious icons that the friars brought from Spain,. For the first centuries of Spanish colonization, painting was limited to religious icons. Portraits of saints and of the Holy Family became a familiar sight in churches. Other subject matters include the passion of Christ, the Via Crucis, the crucifixion, portrayal of heaven, purgatory and hell. Painters from the Visayas island of Bohol were noted for their skillful manipulation of the technique. Their paintings of saints and religious scenes show figures in frontal and static positions. For the Boholano painters, the more important persons would be depicted bigger than the rest of the figures. Christ normally dwarfs the Roman soldiers in these paintings. Unfortunately, they did not sign their names on their works and no record of their names exists. In the church in Paete, Laguna are two works by Josef Luciano Dans (1805- ca. 1870), probably one of the earliest recorded painters in Philippine art history. Langit, Lupa at Impierno ca. 1850 (Heaven, Earth and Hell), a three-level painting which shows the Holy Trinity, Mary the Mother of Christ, saints, the Seven Blessed Sacraments and a macabre depiction of Hell. The second painting is entitled Purgatorio (Purgatory) which shows the eight forms of punishment the soul passes through for cleansing before reaching Heaven. During the early part of the Spanish occupation, painting was exclusively for the churches and for religious purposes. Occasionally, it was also used for propaganda. Esteban Villanueva of Vigan, Ilocos Sur depicted the Ilocos revolt against the basi monopoly in a 1821. The Spanish government commissioned the work. The fourteen panels show the series of events that led to the crushing of the Ilocano basi workers revolt by Spanish forces. It also showed the appearance of Halley’s comet in the Philippines during that time. Tagalog...
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