Makers & Retailers - Giorgio Sommer

Giorgio Sommer

Giorgio Sommer (1834-1914) was born in Frankfurt, Germany where initially he studied business. Sommer began his successful career as a photographer when he opened his first photography studio is Switzerland where he made relief images of mountains for the Swiss government. In 1956 he moved his studio to Naples and around ten years later he formed a partnership with fellow German photographer Edmund Behles. Behles owned his own studio in Rome at the time. The partnership kept both photographers working at their independent studios but together they became one of the largest and most prolific photography concerns in Italy. They were active from 1857 to around 1888 and in that time Sommer produced thousands of images of archeological ruins, landscapes, art objects and portraits.

Sommer’s catalog included images from the Vatican Museum, the National Archeological Museum at Naples, the Roman ruins at Pompeii, as well as street and architectural scenes of Naples, Florence, Rome, Capri and Sicily. It was at these locations where Sommer chose particular pieces to reproduce in statue form such as the Fisherman found at the Casa della Fontana piccola (House of the small fountain) available here.

Sommer published his comprehensive album Dintorni di Napoli which contained over one hundred images of everyday scenes in Naples and this is regarded as one of his most influential and important works. In April 1872, he documented a very large eruption of Mount Vesuvius in a series of stunning photographs. Sommer and Behles exhibited extensively and earned numerous honours and leading prizes for their work at world fairs including London 1862, Paris 1867, Vienna 1873, Nuremberg 1885.

Sommer being such a high profile was also appointed official photographer to King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy for a short stint.
Sommer was involved in every aspect of the photography business publishing his own images that he then went onto sell in his studios which had a reach across Europe. Towards the latter part of his working career Sommer photographed custom images for book illustrations, as well as printing his own albums and postcards. The partnership with Behles ended in 1874, after which each photographer continued his own business.

There is little information regarding the foundry that Sommer ran along side his photography business but it is very likely that during the Grand Tour Sommer invested in souvenirs that coincided with his photographs that were available to purchase along side each product. It is believe that Giorgio Sommer produced high quality bronzes and souvenirs of classical subjects, to appeal to the wealthy Grand Tourists visiting the classical sites of Italy. The figures and souvenirs were usually modelled after subjects he had seen on his travels.