Firmino: Academy’s student and assistant

22 de December, 2023

Throughout his career, Soares dos Reis used drawing as a method of study and to prepare his artworks.


At the Academia Portuense de Belas Artes he learnt to draw from plaster casts and engravings with Professor Tadeu de Almeida Furtado and under the guidance of João António Correia he practised the study of the human figure in the Nude Art Class.


In 1867, he entered the competition for a scholarship abroad, at the Academia Portuense de Belas Artes, with the Bust of Firmino. António Firmino dos Santos Almeida was a student of sculpture, having also been a doorman at the Museu Portuense and a model at the Nude Art Class.

Immortalised by the sculptor António Soares dos Reis, António Augusto Firmino dos Santos Almeida was born on 22 July 1842, to José Ribeiro and Maria Augusta dos Santos Almeida, in the parish of Vitória, Porto.


He entered the Porto Academy of Fine Arts in 1865, at the age of 23. Two years later, he modelled António Soares dos Reis, his colleague at the Academy, for the Bust of Firmino with which Soares dos Reis entered the competition for State Pensioner.


Some critics called this work “Desafio” (Challenge) because they considered it to be “a sculpture with soul, of great inner richness, evident not only in the firmness of the gaze but also in the oblique position, very different from traditional canons, demonstrating a different aesthetic concept from the one he had learnt from his masters.”[1]


This type of bust, positioned facing forwards with the head twisted, was not repeated in Soares dos Reis’ work. It must have been studied in a sketch drawing, which identifies the model’s features, with wavy hair and a moustache.

Firmino - Desenho de Soares dos Reis

Despite having been a regular student at the Academia Portuense de Belas Artes, attending classes in Historical Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, Firmino applied in 1872, at the age of 30, for the position of doorman at the Museu Portuense (or Ateneu D. Pedro), having been ranked 1st out of the nine candidates who applied.


In the following years, he applied for the post of guard at the Academia Portuense de Belas Artes and the Museu Portuense, but it wasn’t until 1901 – due to the death of the current guard – that he was appointed as the Museum’s doorman on an interim basis. The general competition for the permanent post took place on 15 February 1901 and António Augusto Firmino dos Santos Almeida, already 59 years old, came first.


Eight candidates took part in the competition, who were tested on grammatical analysis, the writing of letters and mathematical operations. The absolute merit of each candidate was voted on by the five members of the evaluation committee, which included António Teixeira Lopes, at the time a merit scholar at the Academia Portuense de Belas Artes.


[1] M. Silva (1889), A Modernidade na Arte de Soares dos Reis