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Felix Resurrecion Hidalgo’s El Asesinado del Gobernador Bustamante (The

Assassination Governor Bustamante) Also known as La Iglesia Contra el Estado (The

Church Against the State): A critique

One of the greatest contributions of art to the human culture and society is its

dramatic depiction of history. How it vivifies an oral or a written literature, most especially

the events of the past which influences the present and the approaching future. Not only does

it showcase the aesthetic appeal to give life to history, art also helps in narrowing the gap

between the past that is the history and the following times – the present and future – so to

reconcile the events and lessons that can be learned from both periods therefore contributing

to educating about the past so to improve the future, and have knowledge of what must and

must not be repeated in history and the reasons why.

One of the notable artworks and masterpieces which depicts history is Felix

Resurreccion Hidalgo’s El Asesinado del Gobernador Bustamante (The Assassination

Governor Bustamante) Also known as La Iglesia Contra el Estado (The Church Against the

State. It is an artwork that is surely a masterpiece as it also won and garnered fame as well as

respect in the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884 and what makes it even more

interesting is the fact that it is one of the most controversial artworks in the Philipppines.

Hidalgo’s El Asesinado del Gobernador Bustamante is a huge Painting measuring

338 cm by 412 cm with the medium as oil and canvas. The artwork is currently displayed in

the National Art Gallery of the National Museum of the Philippines. Felix Resurreccion

Hidalgo started and finished the piece around 1884 in Spain. It was inspired by a true-to-life

event that is the assassination of the Governor General Fernando Bustamante in 1719 by a

mob of friars.
The painting, as it title says, depicts Governor General Fernando Bustamante being

brutally murdered by the friars in his own palace, on its grand staircase. Different characters

or people are present at the setting of the artwork. First, the friars are seen wearing black and

white robe and most of them are all in the middle of the staircase and they all have the body

language of an intruder. Second, the guards or the soldiers are seen attacking the friars from

the side of the staircase and they were all wearing red and black uniforms. At the far back are

also mostly friars however there are also the silhouettes of the guards or soldiers. Lastly, the

dramatic depiction of the killing of Governor General Fernando Bustamante is seen on the

upper middle section of the painting or the upper staircase. It shows the dying body of the

Governor General being dragged down the staircase while the friars are beating him up.

The colors and the details in the painting are highly elaborate and emphasized. The

colors are bright and vivid as everything can be perceived and described clearly. The friars

can be easily distinguished from the soldiers. The texture and embroidery of the characters’

clothing are also remarkable, especially the Governor General’s outfit which stands out the

most. The use of 1-point perspective also highlights the dramatization of the conflict between

the friars and the soldiers in the painting, it is consistent from the closest to the farthest view

of the painting.

The function of El Asesinado del Gobernador Bustamante works hand in hand with

its content as well as the context it was painted on.

The content is what the title says it is, it is a specific historical event depiction that is

the assassination of Governor General Fernando Bustamante by the friars in 1719. The story

behind the painting is that the Governor General is a fair and just leader unlike the previous

ones who would abuse and exploit the Filipinos before as well as the riches of the country.

Bustamante wanted to run a government that is free of corruption and injustices. However

because of his aspirations, he clashed with Fernando Dela Cuesta, the Archbishop of Manila
who is known to protect the corrupt officials. With that reason, Bustamante had the

Archbishop detained. As a result, the friars were angered and then reacted violently, rushing

to the palace of the governor and then began a rampage which resulted to the killing of

Governor General Fernando Bustamante.

The painting was

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