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The island of Capri, Italy, located in the bay of Naples has been inhabited for more than 2000 years.

A Roman Emperor built 12 villas on this four square mile island. He knew the right spots! It is known for its wonderful climate, blue seawater, the natural beauty expressing itself in the wonderful sea caves like the blue grotto and the fabulous coastline with those natural limestone crags. Conquered by Greeks, Pirates, Normans, French, Spanish, English and ultimately restored to Italian sovereignty it has become the play ground in the summer of wealthy Kings, Queens, Sheiks and other mortals of various kinds including the so called “beautiful” people strolling along the small streets of the two towns, Capri and Anacapri spending legally earned or illegally earned monies. Writers, actors, artists are all part of the make up of the Island’s myth.

In 1826, the first hotel was opened on the island catering to those foreigners who were doing the Grand Tour and were looking for a reprieve from the way of life encountered in Naples. Napoli, in the heart of every Southern Italian, represents all that is good and real about Italy (il mezzo giorno). They know full well that their own province or town wherever that may be, is forever the very best place to live.

A secret they would like to preserve for all eternity! More songs have been sung and more novels have been written on and about this island than perhaps any other place in Italy. Some very famous artists used the natural beauty of this fabulous place as a fountain of inspiration.

One of those painters, an American by birth, William Stanley Haseltine, N.A. (1835-1900) studied at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as, at Harvard University. He is considered an exponent of the Hudson School and Dusseldorf School of Painting. The latter was named after the place where a lot of American painters studied, Dusseldorf in Germany. Haseltine traveled to Italy on many occasions and finally made his home in Rome in 1867, the place where he was buried. His painting illustrated below and executed around 1870 shows the great Natural Arch on the Island which is 18 meters (54 feet) in height and spans 12 meters (36 feet).

It shows the exact spot where the girl was sitting (bottom far left) in the black and white photograph below, an albumen print (approx.8x9inches) from my archive dating to the 1870’s-1880’s. The photograph was taken by the famous Italian 19th Century photographer Giorgio Sommer, who so aptly used the charming lady in the bottom on the left side of the photograph to skillfully illustrate the size of this wonderful piece of limestone crag. Shown in this post from top to bottom by tourists/photographers Kemmsche in 2006, Zongo 2006, Johan Liebmann 2004 (All from Wikipedia).

Was she a native or a tourist? I’ll guess I will never know, but by using Haseltine’s painting for comparison I can see that the vegetation hardly changed during those few years that separate the making of the painting and this photograph. As Holmes would say, well done Watson!

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