The first of the two paintings, entitled “Girls’ School in Rome”, reveals the interior of a girls’ school run by a religious congregation in Rome. It represents a vast illuminated hall, with almost 40 extras, including masters and disciples involved in women’s crafts.
The second canvas, “Choir of the Capuchins in Piazza Barberini, in Rome”, presents the interior of a conventual building representing the choir of the Capuchins in Piazza Barberini, in Rome.
Numerous extras in monastic habits are arranged in a choir surrounding the walls, next to the chairs and around a stand, next to which the priests and their two acolytes are located.
Both oil paintings, measuring approximately 170x137cm, come from the Allen Collection, acquired in 1850 by the Porto City Council. It is an extensive collection of 599 paintings by collector João Allen (1781-1848), contained in an evaluation document prepared on November 30, 1849 by the painter João Batista Ribeiro.
This collection formed the nucleus of the old Porto Municipal Museum (extinct in 1937) and is mostly included in the “Provisional Catalog of the Painting Gallery”, published by Eduardo Allen in 1853. The works have been stored at the National Museum of Soares dos Reis since 1940.
João Francisco Allen (1781-1848) was a businessman of English (more specifically Irish) origin, born in Viana do Castelo on May 1, 1781. Son of Duarte Guilherme Allen, Consul of England in Viana do Castelo, he was awarded the Order of the Tower and Sword for the courage shown in the Peninsular War, for which he volunteered.
He was one of the promoters of the creation of Palácio de Cristal, as well as the first bank in Porto, Banco Comercial.
He founded the Novo Museu Portuense or Museu Allen, the first to have printed catalogs in Portugal (the first was published in 1853), and was a renowned art critic.
The extraordinary collection assembled by João Allen was purchased after his death by the City Council, becoming part of the collection of the original Municipal Museum and today being integrated into the Soares dos Reis National Museum.