Recuerdo de Patay, sometimes referred to as ‘The Dead Child’ is displayed at the National Museum of Fine Arts’ gallery of 19th-century portraiture. Completed in 1896, this oil painting of an infant seemingly in deep sleep may have been commissioned during her funeral as the family’s memento mori, a remembrance of the deceased beloved, which at the time was a practice among wealthy families since photography was not yet as accessible as it was a few decades later.
The painter, Simón Flores y de la Rosa, shows his mastery of the miniaturismo- a style of painting that focused on the smallest of details to make them visible in order to highlight features that are important and which began as portraits on ivory surfaces installed in lockets. In this painting, the cherubic face of the child is set off by the fine embroidery and the delicate textures of her funerary ensemble, making perhaps the family value their memory of a family member who died too young.
Flores, born in San Fernando de Dilao (now Paco) in Manila on October 28, 1839, descended from a family of artisans from the municipality of Balayan, Batangas. He learned art from his uncle, Pio de la Rosa, and later on enrolled at the Academia de Dibujo y Pintura and was mentored by Lorenzo Guerrero (1835-1904) and Lorenzo Rocha (1837-1898).
His artistic career started to flourish in 1871 after he presented his portrait of King Amadeo I of Spain to the province of Pampanga and was applauded by the Spanish colonial government. This, together with his acquaintance with Monsignor Ignacio Pineda Tambungui, led to him being one of the most sought-after portrait and religious art painters in Pampanga.
Flores also painted ‘Alimentando Pollos (Feeding Chicken)’ in 1896 which was declared a National Cultural Treasure in 2008.
He died in 1902 due to gangrene that developed from an infected wound.
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