When Dr Ferdinand Blumentritt received gift from Dr Jose Rizal A 3 piece of his artwork in terracotta, it was made ”public” when an eminent German scientist and pathologist, Dr. Rudolf Virchow delivered an obituary to Rizal in Berlin, Germany, a year after Rizal was executed in Bagumbayan in 1896.
In his obituary, Dr Virchow did not only mention Rizal as his colleague and fellow member of the Berlin Society, he also was emphatic on Rizal’s “sensitivity as an artist”.
The three pieces in terracotta by which RizaL depict in varied or related themes were (1) Prometheus Bound, (2) The Triumph of Intellect over Death and (3) Victory of Death over Life.
In the first artwork, Rizal showed his deep knowledge and interest in Greek mythology by using a mythical hero, Prometheus, whose hands were tied to a rock with an eagle devouring his liver as punishment.Going back to Greek mythology, Prometheus was of one the Gods in
One day when Zeus was sleeping, Prometheus stole the fire then went down to earth and gave it man. Thus putting an end to man’s stupidity. Having received the fire, man is now equipped with “knowledge”, “intelligence” and “independence”.
Angered, for having been deceived and betrayed by a lesser god, Zeus has ordered the arrest of Prometheus and meted a commensurate punishment by having Prometheus chained with both hands tied to big rock while an eagle was assigned to guard him and to eat his liver before flying home. This is how Zeus exacted his revenge when looking at the sculpture.
It became routine that the moment the eagle disappears at nighttime the liver started to grow until the morning comes for the eagle to start his guard duty and then eat t liver again before the night falls.
Rizal used the mythic hero Prometheus as symbolism to further explain his philosophy. In his NOLI dedication addressed to the Filipino people revealed that his aim is not only to expose the Spanish government and the Church abuses but also to remove the veil of ignorance that has kept his countrymen 300 years of ignorance and superstition.
By opening their minds that will bring light through education will liberate them from eternal darkness. It is logical to equate Light, Torch and Fire to mean “Knowledge”, “Learning”, “Education”, “awakening”, “liberation” and “emancipation”.
I can still recall my elementary and high school years when we are required to use NOTE BOOK for writing and homework. You may recall to memory that the cover of the NOTE BOOK made of manila paper shows a picture of a TORCH and around it is boldly printed “KNOWLEDGE IS POWER” or “ANG KARUNUNGAN AY TANGLAW”.
The second Rizal artwork depicts a naked lady with her hands up holding a torch.to illustrates “The Triumph of Intellect Over Death”. Rizal used the symbolic TORCH or LIGHT to wipe out ignorance, superstition and darkness.
A close look at the third artwork demonstrates how sensitive Rizal was on the grim reality when mortal life is extinguished. The sculpted skeleton with his wardrobe holding a naked woman in his “skeletal’ hands symbolized “The Victory of Death over Life”, the title Rizal gave, reflects the popular theme when the evil forces of darkness gain upper hand from the forces of good and righteousness.
Depicting the interplay of life and death is still the most popular theme among writers, dramatists, poets, philosophers and composers from the Renaissance to the present.