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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, Addendum Part 19.1: El Mestiso by Justiniano Asunción

Justiniano Asunción in the center with his family

The first image above is a photo of the artist, Justiniano Asunción (sitting center), and his children circa 1894.

Justiniano Asunción y Molo (1816-1896) was a Filipino painter and politician that lived from 1816 to 1896.

Asunción was born into a prosperous Chinese Filipino family in the Santa Cruz district of Manila. He was one of six brothers, who were all renowned artists. The Asunción brothers operated an art studio and workshop.

In 1853, Asunción was elected cabeza de barangay (a municipal office) of his native Santa Cruz, which made him a member of the principalia ruling class working in cooperation with the Spanish government. This position gave him his alias Capitan Ting.

Asunción was known for the detailed realism, accuracy, and the three dimensional feel of his paintings. He painted life-sized pieces and miniature-sized works. He painted religious images, portraits, and tipos del pais (“types of the country”, native dress) paintings.

Asunción studied at the Escuela de Dibujo under Damián Domingo, whom we covered in part 18 of this series. Domingo established and popularized tipos del pais paintings for the foreign travelers’ market. When Domingo became too ill to continue these paintings, he passed the duty onto his pupil Asunción.

El Mestiso by Justiniano Asunción - Mixed blood Filipino male in long Barong Tagalog with embroidery all over

The Justiniano Asunción painting in the second image above is titled El Mestiso. The exact date is unknown, but it is from the 19th century. It depicts an upper class mixed blood Spanish and native Filipino man walking.

The subject wears a long Barong Tagalog totally covered in embroidery. It is possibly made of piña, silk, or a combination of both. The barong’s top front opening is fastened by a decorative brooch, the collar stands upright, and the collar and cuffs are decorated with embroidered lace at the edges.

The man wears wide-legged striped trousers probably made of silk, slippers possibly made of velvet, a top hat from the west, and a gold necklace. He carries a rolled up parasol in his right hand and a printed silk handkerchief in his left hand. The subject is dressed typically for upper class men of the 19th century Philippines.