Gifts to the Nation: ‘Kiss,’ 2 sculptures by Diosdado M. Lorenzo
(Editor’s note: On May 23, 2019, the National Museum unveiled a special donation of two significant art pieces as one that epitomizes the beautiful relationship between Filipinos and the Italians. This is the story behind the two sculptures by renowned Filipino artist Diosdado M. Lorenzo that ended up as gifts to the Filipino nation by Marco and Alba Costamagna of Italy.)
The Power of the Arts
By Silvana Diaz
VP-Culture, Philippine Italian Association
(First published in thephilbiznews.com)
This is the second time that I feel the Power (or the Spirit) of the Arts.
A series of incredible coincidences that put myself and the Philippine Italian Association in the situation of playing a key role in making public some of the most important relationships connecting Italy and the Philippines through the History of the Arts.
The first time was in 2004. I was spending my last days of a holiday in the Alps. I received a call from a neighbor followed by a visit, at night time, by a descendant of the Italian sculptor, Francesco Riccardo Monti. Ms. Anna Filippicci Bonetti was conducting a research on Monti’s work for her book “L’Orto dei Marmi, Francesco Riccardo Monti Scultore 1888 – 1958”, and knowing he had moved to Manila in 1930 and had tremendously contributed with his sculptures to the then contemporary art scene of the Philippines. Ms. Bonetti was trying to contact different institutions in the Philippines. One day, distressed by the vacuity of her efforts, she happened to talk about her research to one of her friends, which happened to be one of my neighbors in Pinzolo, near Trento, in the Italian Alps (where I used to ski) that I lived in Manila and I work in the Arts.
Lucky chance (or Power of the Arts?): at that time I was working on a similar research on Monti, trying to retrace his works in Manila and in the Philippine provinces. A collaboration started immediately and we were able to publish a wonderful Art Book on Monti, “L’Orto dei Marmi, Francesco Riccardo Monti Scultore 1888 – 1958” covering his Italian period as well as his Philippine period, spanning from his statues in UST to the many he made for provincial plazas.
Other outputs of that research were the publication, with the Philippine Italian Association, of another small book, in 2005, titled “ Francesco Riccardo Monti in the Philippines” and several exhibits, which the most important are those organized in
2005 at University of Santo Tomas (UST) Museum of Arts & Sciences UST, España, Manila
2005 at the Central Library and Gallery University of the Philippines in the Visayas, General Luna Street, Iloilo City
2007 at the Metropolitan Museum Manila
The second time I experienced this Power of the Arts is what leads to this event today. In 2014, Miss Alba Costamagna, a much esteemed Art Historian and Curator in Italy, started to feel the weight of her 70 years of age and, not having heirs to whom she and her brother, Marco Costamagna could deed their family’s substantial art collection, chose to give to public institutions with the benefit of sharing their appreciation and historical knowledge with the public, and in doing so, the artworks to continue to be seen. Miss Costamagna embarked to inform the public of their family’s rich art collection. It is from this place that she felt that the twin busts, “Kiss”, by Filipino artist Diosdado M. Lorenzo, would be more appreciated in the Philippines and with the Filipino people.
Three years followed in which Miss Costamagna tried to sell the busts on her own during which time she also contacted the Philippine Embassy in Rome. Lucky chance (or Power of the Arts?), at that time, Dottoresa Maya Ciani, an interpreter and assistant at the Philippine Embassy in Rome and daughter of an Italy-based Filipino painter represented by my gallery, Mrs. Lina Llaguno-Ciani, was working at the Philippine Embassy. Dottoresa Ciani informed Mrs. Costamagna that there was an Italian, living in Manila and working in Arts.
A few days later, I was contacted by Miss Alba Costamagna and informed of the two Diosdado Lorenzo busts and she, initially, wanted to sell them in the Philippines. I offered to explore the possibility to sell the busts in the local market but after realizing that the local market was not ready for this transaction, I suggested to Miss Costamagna to donate the two pieces to the National Museum of the Philippines, where a series of beautiful paintings by Diosdado Lorenzo are already displayed.
Miss Alba Costamagna and her brother, Marco, were receptive to the idea especially upon discovering that there were no sculptures from Diosdado Lorenzo at the art collection of the National Museum.
The rest is history, in 2017, I approached the National Museum and proposed to donate the twin sculptures which was gratefully accepted. With the precious help of the Philippine Italian Association, we coordinated with the National Museum and the donor to arrange for the shipment, whose expenses were eventually included in the generous and meaningful deed of donation by the Costamagna Family to the National Museum (and the Filipino people).
In Italy, we kiss each other on the cheeks when meeting up with good friends or family.
We are deeply proud and delighted that these twin busts portraying Enrico Costamagna and Diosdado Lorenzo himself, called “Kiss” is finally in the Philippines and will be displayed at the National Museum to enrich the National Artistic Heritage, and for posterity.
In our eyes this generous donation represents one of the best expressions of the bonds of friendship between Italy and the Philippines. We share so much as people and 2 cultures.
History of Costamagna-Lorenzo Friendship
Diosdado Lorenzo, attended a one year course at the Accademia Reale di Belle Arti in Rome, in the 1930s and was among the young artists (Italians and foreigners) who were attending the Accademia of San Luca. It’s at the Academy of San Luca that Diosdado met Mario Costamagna (who was the father of Miss Alba and Mr. Marco Costamagna) and became one of his closest friends, sharing the common preference for figurative rather than abstract art. The two friends met frequently sharing academic experiences and visiting famous museums in Rome and galleries of contemporary art.
Cultured, affectionate, sympathetic, extremely lively – a true volcano of ideas and initiatives – Diosdado was immediately “adopted” by the parents of Mario, Enrico and Emilia, becoming part of the family and, for his entire stay in Italy, was their beloved and appreciated second son in Rome and, during the summer holidays, in Rimini. Lina Lorenzo, our Secretary General of the Philippine Italian Association, in one of her dedications in a photograph, called them “parents” and choose to give to their two children the name of Emilio and Enrico in honor of the Costamagnas. Madame Emilia was even the godmother of Emilio Lorenzo.
‘Kiss’, the 2 sculptures
The two busts were offered by the young Diosdado to Enrico Costamagna, the father of his closest friend.
They are intended to be displayed as one facing the other, as they would during long conversations they would have during their times together.
Philippine Italian Association and Diosdado Magno Lorenzo
Aside from being a point of reference for cultural exchanges since 1962 the Philippine Italian Association is very much engaged in the donation of these two busts because of its close connections and deep affection toward the artist himself. Diosdado Lorenzo’s wife was none other than Mrs. Lina Paolini Lorenzo, originally from Rome, who met and married the artist during his sojourn in Italy. She was and remains one of the most important figures in the Association, having been the Secretary General of the Philippine Italian Association for almost 50 years, from 1963 until she passed away, in 2011.
In 1982, Ambassador BienvenidoTantoco, then President of the PIA, organized an exhibit of Diosdado Lorenzo in his Gallery Bleue.
In 2009, the Philippine Italian Association published a book in tribute to the artist entitled, “Diosdado Magno Lorenzo, From Art Rebel to Legend”.
Thus, it is our honor to present to the Philippines this wonderful donation by the Costamagna Family. Thank you.