Rosina Ferrara

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Charles Sprague Pearce, Study, Rosina, Capri, 1880

Rosina Ferrara (1861–1934) was an Italian girl from the island of Capri,[1] who became the favorite muse of American expatriate artist John Singer Sargent. Captivated by her exotic beauty, a variety of 19th-century artists, including Charles Sprague Pearce, Frank Hyde, and George Randolph Barse made works of art of her[2] that are now owned by private collectors and museums.[3] Ferrara was featured in the 2003 art exhibit "Sargent's Women" at New York City's Adelson Galleries, as well as in the eponymous book published that year.[3][4]

At about the age of thirty, Ferrara married Barse and they moved to the United States, settling in Westchester County, New York.


In the 19th century, American and European artists and writers traveled to the island Capri for its beautiful coastline, blue-green water, architecture, relaxed and rich culture, and the "exceptional beauty of its people" who are a mix of descendants of Roman, Greek, and Phoenician people.[2][5] For instance, inspired by the beautiful women from Capri and Naples, Alphonse de Lamartine wrote the romantic novel Graziella.[2]


Frank Hyde, Rosina, c. 1880. Rosina reclined sensually on a couch, clad in a seductive classical toga while another young girl performs on a flute.

Of Greek ancestry,[6] Ferrara was born in Anacapri, Capri, in 1861.[1] She is considered a descendant of Barbarossa, a 16th-century pirate.[7]

Beginning in the 1870s, she modeled for European and American artists,[1] including British artist Frank Hyde who had a studio in the former Santa Teresa monastery.[5]

John Singer Sargent, Dans Les Oliviers, 1878

John Singer Sargent came to the town of Anacapri on the island in the summer of 1878,[2][6] as had other of his friends who were artists. While there, he met and became a friend of Frank Hyde and worked in his studio.[5] Taken by Ferrara's beauty, he made twelve paintings of her over one year,[2] including Dans Les Olivier,[6] Head of an Anacapri Girl,[8] and Capri Girl on a Rooftop.[9]

In 1891 in Rome, she married American painter George Randolph Barse of Detroit and moved to the United States shortly after the marriage. They lived in Katonah, Westchester County, New York.[1][3] In 1934, Ferrara died of pneumonia.[1] Four years after her death, Barse committed suicide[1][3] at his home in Katonah.[10]

Image in art and culture[edit]

John Singer Sargent, Rosina Ferrara, Head of Anacapri Girl, 1878, Berger Collection Educational Trust. Sargent, who gave the work to Frank Hyde, made an inscription in the lower right hand corner of the painting.[8]

Ferrara was described by various artists as an Arab or Greek type,[11][12][5] the type seen in classical art, such as that of Ancient Greece.[citation needed] Greek colonists settled in Capri in ancient times and left their mark in their descendants.[13][14] When Charles Sprague Pearce showed his cabinet picture of Rosina for the Salon in 1882, Mr. Pearce described her as "the tawney skinned, panther eyed, elf-like Rosina, wildest and lithest of all the savage creatures on the savage isle of Capri."[15]

English artist, Adrian Stokes wrote of Rosina: "It used to be very easy for artists to find models; but now the grown-up girls are rather shy of strangers, and the priests think it is dangerous for them to pose. For all of that, there are some regular models to be had. Rosina is considered the first on the island, and certainly is a remarkably handsome young woman. She sits perfectly as a model of London or Paris."[16]

One of the John Singer Sargent paintings, Dans Les Olivier (Among the Olive Trees, Capri), was shown at the Paris salon in 1879.[6][5] Another version of the painting, A Capriote, held by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was submitted to the Society of American Artists in New York in March 1879 for its annual exhibition. The museum describes the painting of Rosina, "Her twisted stance echoes the forms of the branches, expressing a kinship between them of wild and natural beauty. Sargent equates his model with a classically inspired dryad, making her an elemental part of the wild Capri landscape." He also made a third painting of the same setting.[5]

List of paintings[edit]

John Singer Sargent, Capri Girl on a Rooftop, 1878, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, The painting is of Rosina Ferrara doing a tarantella dance on the rooftop.[9]

John Singer Sargent, primarily painted in 1878

Other artists


  1. ^ a b c d e f Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art (2010). "Mediterrenea: American Art from the Graham D. Williford Collection Catalog Preview". University of Oklahoma. p. 25. Retrieved April 28, 2017 – via 
  2. ^ a b c d e John Singer Sargent (September 26, 2015). Delphi Complete Works of John Singer Sargent (Illustrated). Delphi Classics. p. PT18. GGKEY:CPLF30F84FT. 
  3. ^ a b c d Eric Martone (December 12, 2016). Italian Americans: The History and Culture of a People. ABC-CLIO. p. 260. ISBN 978-1-61069-995-2. 
  4. ^ Adelson, Warren; Davis, Deborah; Kilmurray,Elaine; Ormond, Richard (2003). Sargent's Women. New York: Adelson Galleries. ISBN 9780974162102. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "A Capriote". Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Retrieved April 30, 2017. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Trevor J. Fairbrother; John Singer Sargent (2000). John Singer Sargent: The Sensualist. Seattle Art Museum. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-300-08744-4. 
  7. ^ "Man behind the painting of injured soldiers' return". Kent Messenger Maidstone. 19 December 2014. Retrieved April 8, 2017 – via 
  8. ^ a b c "Rosina Ferrara, Head of a Capri Girl, 1878". Berger Collection Educational Trust. Retrieved April 30, 2017. 
  9. ^ a b c Jane A. Dini - Former Associate Curator (September 22, 2015). "A Celebrated Return Engagement". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved April 8, 2017. 
  10. ^ "George R. Barse Portrait Painter, Kills Himself". Dunkirk Evening Observer. Dunkirk, New York. February 25, 1938. p. 1. Retrieved April 29, 2017 – via 
  11. ^ Arron Adams (April 17, 2016). John Sargent: His Palette. Arron Adams. p. PT17. ISBN 978-605-04-2167-5. 
  12. ^ Elaine Kilmurray; Richard Ormond; Tate Gallery; National Gallery of Art (U.S.); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1998). John Singer Sargent. Tate Gallery Publishing. p. 66. 
  13. ^ Trudy Ring; Noelle Watson; Paul Schellinger (November 5, 2013). Southern Europe: International Dictionary of Historic Places. Taylor & Francis. p. 121. ISBN 978-1-134-25965-6. 
  14. ^ Bruce Chatwin (August 1, 1997). Anatomy of Restlessness: Selected Writings 1969-1989. Penguin Publishing Group. p. PT108. ISBN 978-1-101-50319-5. 
  15. ^ Elaine Kilmurray; Richard Ormond; Tate Gallery; National Gallery of Art (U.S.); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1998). John Singer Sargent. Tate Gallery Publishing. p. 68. 
  16. ^ Adrian Stokes (1886). "Capri". The Art Journal. Virtue and Company. p. 169. 
  17. ^ "Rosina Ferrara Barse Jr. and Unidentified Woman". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved April 30, 2017. 
  18. ^ "Capri Peasant - Study". Smithsonian American Art Museum, SIRIS. Retrieved April 30, 2017. 
  19. ^ "Rosina Ferrara Barse Jr.". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved April 30, 2017. 
  20. ^ "Head of Ana-Capri Girl". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved April 30, 2017. 
  21. ^ "Head of Rosina". Smithsonian American Art Museum, SIRIS. Retrieved April 30, 2017. 
  22. ^ "Rosina Ferrara". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved April 30, 2017. 
  23. ^ Michael Kilian (November 18, 2003). "Exhibit ponders passions of painter Sargent". Chicago Tribute. Retrieved April 30, 2017 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (help)). 
  24. ^ "View of Capri". Yale University Art Gallery. Retrieved April 30, 2017. 
  25. ^ "Rosina Ferrara Barse Jr.". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved April 30, 2017. 
  26. ^ "Graphic Arts Exhibition Ends At J. B. Speed Museum Today". The Courier Journal. Louisville, Kentucky. November 21, 1937. p. 4. Retrieved April 29, 2017 – via 
  27. ^ "Rosina Ferrara Barse Jr.". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved April 30, 2017. 

External links[edit]