Painter Salaya del Toro’s mark on central Cuba

Painter Salaya del Toro’s mark on central Cuba
Fecha de publicación: 
29 March 2023
Imagen principal: 

The Filipino-Spanish painter Camilo Jose Salaya del Toro, a graduate of the San Fernando Academy in Madrid, left his mark on major structures of Cienfuegos in the 19th century, including the Garcia de la Noceda Palace, one of this city’s most relevant local buildings and exponents of domestic architecture from that time.

As part of an effort to salvage the neoclassical building, current headquarters of the Office of the City Conservator (OCCC), artists from the Cuban Fund for Cultural Heritage restored three of Salaya del Toro’s marouflages—in French, a technique for affixing a painted canvas to a wall.

According to David Liestter Martínez Ramos, a researcher with OCCC, these are bucolic works that recreate local period scenes on the upper frames of the main doors to the stairwell.

One of these paintings shows a young woman carrying two baskets, one on her head and the other on her left hand, and a long-spouted bottle on her right hand; the second shows a harvester taking a nap under a grove while others keep gleaning grain; and the third painting shows harvesting peasants and women by the side of the field, either carrying grain in their baskets or offering food to the workers.

José Ernesto Saborido Martín, member of Grupo 200, in charge of restoring the pieces, explained that they were in very poor condition because of the glue and they had to use scalpels to remove them, but they managed to give them back their colors and designs as they returned them to their original state. Therefore, they will soon be moved to the Palace’s exhibition area for the enjoyment of present and future local and foreign generations.

The Filipino-Spanish painter, whose typical brushstrokes and colors made it possible to identify his works, also adorned the walls of the foyer and the plinth with floral motifs framed in squares.

“This artist made an impact on the city of Cienfuegos with murals and other creations of exquisite artistic and patrimonial value for the García de la Noceda Palace, the Tomás Terry Theater and the old Spanish Casino, today the Provincial Museum,” Saborido Martín added. “He also left two portraits of renowned artists of nineteenth-century Cuban, namely the novelist, playwright and poet Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, who lived in the city in 1860, and the opera composer Gaspar Villate y Montes, author of Czarina.

Born in February 1840 in the then-Spanish colony of the Philippines and said by researchers to have died in the late 19th century, Salaya del Toro contributed monumental pieces of priceless beauty for his time and the future of the city of Cienfuegos.

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