It was truly an honor to have seen the original pencil sketch of one of Rizal's "passion" and probably his only true love- Leonor Rivera. The avid Rizal collector who bought this sketch paid more than a million for its acquisition. He had a choice between this piece and a sketch of Josephine Bracken, but he chose the "passion" over the wife. Most of Leonor Rivera's (the original Maria Clara) pictures posted in the net are crayon sketches or reproductions. This one is the original pencil sketch.
Leonor Rivera was a native of Dagupan, Pangasinan. She was 13 years old when she and Rizal met in Manila. Apparently, they were first cousins, but they later became childhood sweethearts, a love that was mostly nurtured through love letters, as Rizal had to go to Europe for his studies. Being Rizal's sweetheart for eleven years, she played the greatest influence in keeping him from falling in love with other women during his travels. Unfortunately, Leonor’s mother disapproved of her daughter’s relationship with Rizal, who was then a known Filibuster. She hid from Leonor all of Rizal's letters sent to her. Leonor believing that Rizal had already forgotten her, sadly consented to marry her mother's choice, the Englishman Henry Kipping, a Manila-Dagupan railroad engineer. News of their marriage devastated Rizal. Leonor Rivera died at childbirth at a tender age of 25.
She was immortalized by Rizal as the character María Clara in the Spanish-language novel Noli Me Tangere.