Dante’s Angels

Yasunari Ramon Suarez Taguchi (The Freeman) - October 31, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — In the years when Juan Arellano drafted the designs of the Cebu Provincial Capitol Building, an Italian expatriate named Dante Guidetti was introducing classic European architecture and sculpture to Cebu.

An artist and sculptor who trained at the Regio Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti in Torino, Italy, Guidetti was widely characterized as a “creative liaison” who expanded what Cebu then knew of classic European architectural themes, sculptures and reliefs –in the time when Cebu was picking itself up from the end of the Filipino-American War.

A number of Dante Guidetti’s works still stand today in various parts of the city.

The Angel of Carreta

Standing roughly four feet tall and set on a dais at the Asociacion Benefica Española de Cebu section of the Carreta cemetery (which is popularly referred to as the “Spanish Section” of the cemetery) is an angel statute sculpted by Guidetti. The piece is believed to have been completed sometime in the 1930s, nestled at a prominent area in the section of the cemetery, and housed in a feretory that bears Gothic-themed designs.

A signed work, the piece has earned the praises of Cebuano artists and historians over the years, most of whom note that its is reflective of the standards of classic Greek period styles. The piece also bear the principles of balance in perspective which were en vogue during the high Renaissance era, though this may be missed when viewed today as it is missing a portion of its right arm and wing.

The Osmeña Mausoleum

In 2007, the Women’s International League-Hapsay Sugbo Foundation saw to the erection of a series of historical markers commemorating various events and structures along Colon Street.

One such marker is found where the studio of Guidetti was in the Colon-Mabini street intersection, with an inscription citing a number of his notable works; the Osmeña Mausoleum being one of many.

Located in barangay San Miguel, the centerpiece of the mausoleum is a statute depicting an angel that’s grieving over a body lying through the length of a dais. Adorning the dais are bas reliefs of angels carved in the classic Italian putto angel (toddler angel) style –presumed to be reflective of Guidetti’s training in classical sculpture styles.

Alto-relievo nudes along Colon

Guidetti’s arguably most well-known work is one which every Cebuano has seen in passing at the very least – a neo-classical façade that’s composed of full-bodied nudes; the façade of the now-defunct Vision Theater located along Colon Street.

Noted by historians to have been constructed and completed in the 1930s as the San Miguel Hotel (later converted to Vision Theater), the structure’s façade is gilded with figures that bear allusions to characters of Graeco-Roman mythology, sculpted in the alto-relievo or high relief technique.

JUAN ARELLANO
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