Collection Online
The golden age
oil on canvas
141.5 × 250.5 cm
Place/s of Execution
Paris, France
inscribed in red paint l.r.: A.ALTSON. / 1893.
Accession Number
Australian Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented by the artist under the terms of the National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship, 1895
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of The Vizard Foundation
Gallery location
16th & 17th Century Gallery - Painting and Sculpture
Mezzanine linked to Level 1, NGV International
Subjects (general)
Allegory and Symbols Human Figures Nature
Subjects (specific)
Arcadian landscapes (visual works) cast shadows dancing (activity) leisure music (performing arts genre) nudes (representations) pastoral women (female humans)

‘Mr Altson was at considerable pains to obtain his studies for this work, it being no means as easy as it used to be in France to obtain permission from proprietors of land to paint the nude in the open. Mr Altson succeeded by stealth, and took his models to the Island of Noirmontier, off the south-west coast of France, his painting ground being a spot of remote and rarely visited land in the neighbourhood. Under these uneasy and anxious conditions he obtained beautiful studies of flesh, golden in the full light, with tender roses and purples in the half lights.’


The painting is one of the travelling scholarship pictures, (this one the scholarship for 1895) painted in Paris and despatched to Melbourne. It is one of the few reverse-profile frames in the collection and the only one to carry this lemon/gold finish. The leaf patterns are suggestive of art nouveau influences though the frame itself is more conventional in form. It would have been an expensive frame for an art student at the time.


1 The use of tie-bolts for assembling the corners of the frame suggests it was made for travel. There are several frames in the collection with a similar method of assembly to facilitate dismantling. Notable among these are: John Longstaff‘s Burke and Wills (343-2); Arthur Louriero’s A vision of St. Stanislaus (99-2); the Stevens’ frame for Charles Cope’s The Pilgrim Fathers (p.300-10-1) and Stevens’ large-scale frame for James Webb‘s Rotterdam at Sunset (p.302.1-1); the Vokins frame on Edwin Long‘s Queen Esther (p.307.1-1); along with the elaborately carved mid C18th English frame on Murillo‘s The Immaculate Conception (1826-4). The C18th French frame on Poussin‘s The Crossing of the Red Sea (1843–4) uses mortise and tenon corners, which are secured with screws, as does the Pollak frame of 1955 on Tiepolo‘s The banquet of Cleopatra (103-4).

73, Rue de Rennes, Faubourg Saint-Germain Paris

The frame is made from composition ornaments on a wooden base. The profile of the wooden base is shaped from a section made up of a number of pieces of timber, nailed and glued together. A mixture of matte and burnished lemon-coloured leaf gives a distinct colour and reflective quality to the frame. The corners are mitred and secured with dowels and tie-bolts to facilitate dismantling into four component sections and re-assembly after transport.1 The corners are also secured across the reverse with dovetail splines, which render the assembly more permanent. The major ornamental moulding of fern leaves has a repeat of 19.0 cm. This section is also cut through at the corners without alignment to the adjacent part, reminding us that these are long strips of ornamented profile cut to length.


The frame is in good original condition throughout, retaining the original articulation of surfaces.

185.5 x 295.0 x 12.6 cm; sight 138.2 x 247.5 cm