The Assassination of Governor Bustamante and His Son

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A description and explanation of Felix Hidalgo's masterpiece, The Assassination of Governor Bustamante and His Son.

They say that art is a reflection of the times, and in the case of Master artist Felix Resurrecion Hidalgo and his masterpiece, the saying holds true.

Felix Resurrecion Hidalgo, along with contemporary Juan Luna, garnered fame and respect in the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884 with his painting entitled "The Assassination of Governor Bustamante and His Son." Hidalgo won a silver medal for his work while Luna bagged the gold medal for his painting, the "Spoliarium." Both paintings are now honored as National Cultural Treasures because of their contribution to the development of art in the Philippines. 

"The Assassination of Governor Bustamante and His Son" is an oil on canvas painting. It is more tall than it is wide, so when you look at it in person, it seems to be looming over you, eager to tell its tale. The painting is busy with dynamic action, as the canvas is filled with people showing how a mob is assaulting the central character, Governor Bustamante. The painting is beautiful, to be sure. But beyond the technique lies a story that gives the painting more meaning.

The painting is actually a depiction of a specific historical event in the Philippines during the period of Spanish colonization. According to some history books, Governor-General Bustamante, in an effort to run a clean government clashed with the Archbishop of Manila named Fernando dela Cuesta, who had a habit of protecting the corrupt government officials. Because of the Archbishop's actions, Bustamante had the the former detained, which roused violent reactions from the clergymen. To show their support for their Archbishop, Franciscan, Dominican and Augustinian friars all gathered together and headed to the Palacio del Gobernador and began a rampage.