One hundred years ago, Carl Schmitt was in Italy, staying with the Grazzini family in their villa above the town of Fiesole in the northern region of Tuscany. Since his arrival in Italy in the spring, the artist had been hard at work, sending a large shipment of paintings and pastels to his patron, Zell Hart Deming, in Warren, Ohio, before venturing on a series of scenes of Fiesole and the surrounding countryside. Schmitt’s portrait of Dr. Grazzini’s lovely daughter Luisina would be shown at an exhibition in Florence in the fall.
In early August the artist’s seemingly idyllic life was shattered by the outbreak of war between the great powers, and before the week was out large numbers of refugees from Germany flooded the northern part of Italy. In the face of the conflict Schmitt would move to Florence, then to Rome, and finally to Naples, whence he sailed back to the United States in early February, 1915. Deming saw fit to publish Schmitt’s letter to his parents in his hometown newspaper, The Warren Tribune, on August 10.
Luisina Grazzini at her father’s villa, summer 1914.
Carl Schmitt who is studying at Fiesole, on the hills above Florence, writes under the date of August 10 to his father, Prof. Jacob Schmitt:
The situation here is very serious and will very likely be worse as soon as prices are going up rapidly. I am still living at Dr. Grazzini’s villa. Many Americans are here and I have seen several hysterical women who have no money. Many of them are school teachers and all are stranded. But you probably know more about it than I do. The papers have given hardly any victories to Germany but I fear they are making headway.
I wish I might get a letter from home. I have no idea how long we shall be without mail for how long before this will reach you. Meantime I am working as hard as the weather will permit.
Self-portrait sketch, dated January 20, 1915, while Schmitt was in Naples awaiting his boat home to America.
We should be all right if anyone has any money. The Italians can’t draw their money out of the banks, so they are nearly as hard up as the Americans and English here.
The northern cities are full of Italians, English and Americans who have been expelled from Germany and other countries at war. All these refugees depend on the charity of the Italians. The Grazzini Villa is filled to overflowing.
I have been having a gold crown put on a tooth I broke and my dentist had great difficulty in getting enough gold in Florence for it. All Europe seems to be extremely hostile to the Prussians and the stories that come from the north are terrible.
from The Warren Tribune, August 10, 1914
The charming Luisina in the garden.