Lozano's watercolour spells the name of his patron (or perhaps his patron's inamorata here) and shows three scenes of Manila: upper left a typical house with figures in local costumes; upper right the Paseo de Magallanes, a popular promenade by the Pasig in the old city, showing the Magellan monument and candle trees; and below, a rare view of the Quiapo suspension bridge, inaugurated in 1852 and replaced by the Quezon (Baluyut) bridge in the 1930s.
Lozano's surviving works include albums of views and types of Manila and environs such as the Flebus album (Christie's, 14 July 1995, lot 112, £240,000), the Ayala, Gironella and so-called 'broken' albums, and a handful of letras y figuras watercolours such as 'Balvino Mauricio' (private collection, Manila), 'Charles D. Mugford' (Peabody Museum, Salem, MA) and 'Forbes' (previously with Yu-Chee Chong Fine Art, London).
In his recent monograph on Lozano, Jose Maria A. Carino writes that Lozano's 'age tinted paintings on Manila paper depicting vignettes of 19th century Philippine life, ingeniously arranged, delineated and highlighted with colour to form the letters spelling out a person's name' are 'some of the most quaint and endlessly fascinating relics of Filipino culture in Spanish times.' (José Honorato Lozano; Filipinas 1847)
Lozano was born in Manila, the son of a lighthouse keeper at Manila Bay and grew up in Sampoloc just outside Intramuros. He was active as a painter in the 1840s and was remarked on as 'a watercolourist without rival' by a local commentator, Rafael Diaz Arenas, as early as 1850. A number of his early commissions show him as a practitioner of the unusual art form that appears to have been unique to him in the mid-nineteenth century, letras y figuras, in which a patron's name is composed by elaborate arrangements of figures (Tipos del Pais) surrounded by vignettes of scenes in Manila. This art form may have derived loosely from illuminated manuscripts. Lozano also produced more conventional studies of local types and costumes in the costumbrista tradition, supplying the demand for souvenirs of exotic Manila to visitors. He is also recorded working in oils and was commissioned by the Spanish government to depict episodes from the history of the colony to be displayed during the fiesta in the district of Santa Cruz in Manila in 1848 and Arenas also records further historical genre commissions. His work, encompassing letras y figuras, Tipos del Pais, landscapes and genre has marked him as an important transitional figure between the miniaturist art of Damian Domingo and Justiniano Asuncion and the fully fledged genre paintings of Lorenzo Guerrero and Felipe Rojas.