August Allebé (1838 - 1927), Brussels, 1870
oil on panel,
61.6 cm x 33.8 cm
The Mesdag Collection, The Hague
This museum guard strolls past the plaster casts of ancient sculptures. The largest is a copy of the famous statue Venus de Milo. The feather duster tucked under his arm is for cleaning the works of art. It is unknown why August Allebé titled this work An Old Friend.
The painting was originally twice as large. It had already been sawn in two before it came into Mesdag’s possession. Allebé did this himself: he was dissatisfied with the scene’s perspective. The other half, featuring elegant museum visitors, is in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
From 1880, Allebé was a teacher at, and later director of, the National Academy of Fine Arts in Amsterdam. He trained many artists.