Monday, February 22, 2010

Two letters about a portrait

(Private collection)

"Dear Wilhelm von Gloeden,

During my Grand Tour, in 1890, I tried to collect as many memories as possible of the places I visited, in Greece and Italy. Of course, I bought the usual photographs of Pompei and Vesuvius, of Rome and Florence, of Naples and Venice. But I found in a souvenirs shop in Rome some unique photographs that immediately caught my eye: portraits of young men, silhouettes of half-nude ephebes in Arcadian landscapes or in Attic architectures and terraces... I bought a few of these photographs, and I found your stamp on the reverse side: "Wilhelm von Gloeden, Taormina, deponiert". 

I enjoy particularly the portraits: you have a unique skill to catch the beauty of a young man, to let the viewer imagine his life and his feelings through his face.

I feel so puzzled by a particular portrait, a young man with a white shirt and a dark face, with curly black hair and such dark eyes... 

I am fascinated by his face, by what it expresses, by its wild beauty... He is so... romantic... so rebel...

Well, you are right... I felt in love with him... Please, dear Wilhelm, don't tell him... But please, tell me more about him... Who is he ? 

Thousand thanks

Mike Y."


"Dear Mr. Y.,

Thank you for your lovely letter... I am happy you found some of my photographic prints in Rome. You have good taste, indeed... and I hope my photographs will make you dream for a long time, each time you will look at them, in your Grand Tour album... 

The photograph you alludes to is a portrait of one of my favorite models, although I did not shot many photographs of him. 

He is the elder son in an old family of Taormina's farmers and he is now in charge with the droves of his father. Sheeps or goats, he leads them through the Taormina's mountains, far away from the village. He knows all the paths, all the natural springs in the mountains, he knows all the medicinal herbs, all the flowers in the Sicilian wilderness, he knows the songs and the words to calm down his drove...

He is a fierce and a proud boy of Taormina, his face, his gaze, his natural nobility struck me too... 

Shooting a photograph of a Taormina's nude lad is easy, shooting a portrait where a soul is on display is far more difficult. I am happy you understand what I mean...

With my best regards

Wilhelm von Gloeden"

Von Gloeden Archive, Letter from Mike Y.  to W. von Gloeden, 05/01/1891, call number 1891/05/01/01; Letter from W. von Gloeden to Mike Y., 20/01/1891, call number 1891/20/01/06.

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