Giorgio Sommer (1834–1914) was born in Frankfurt am Main (in modern-day Germany), and became one of Europe’s most important and prolific photographers of the 19th century. Active from 1857 to 1888, he produced thousands of images of archeological ruins, landscapes, art objects and portraits.
After studying business in Frankfurt, Sommer opened his first photography studio in Switzerland, where he made relief images of mountains for the Swiss government. In 1856 moved his business to Naples and later (1866) formed a partnership with fellow German photographer Edmund Behles (also known as Edmondo Behles) who owned a studio in Rome. Operating from their respective Naples and Rome studios, Sommer and Behles became one of the largest and most prolific photography concerns in Italy.
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. Most notably, Sommer published his comprehensive album Dintorni di Napoli which contained over one hundred images of everyday scenes in Naples. 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 honors and prizes for their work (London 1862, Paris 1867, Vienna 1873, Nuremberg 1885). At one time, Sommer was appointed official photographer to King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy.
Sommer was involved in every aspect of the photography business. He published his own images that he sold in his studios and to customers across Europe. In later years, he photographed custom images for book illustrations, as well as printing his own albums and postcards. Sommer worked in all the popular formats of his day: carte de visite, stereoview, and large albumen prints (approximately 8×10) which were sold individually and in bound albums.
The partnership with Behles ended in 1874, after which each photographer continued his own business. In Naples, Sommer opened a total of four additional studios: at No. 4 and No. 8 Monte di Dio, No. 5 Magazzino S. Caterina, and a last at Piazza della Vittoria.
Sommer died in Naples in 1914.
Freiburg im Breisga is a city in Baden-Württemberg, Germany with a population of about 220,000. In the south-west of the country, it straddles the Dreisam river, at the foot of the Schlossberg. Historically, the city has acted as the hub of the Breisgau region on the western edge of the Black Forest in the Upper Rhine Plain. A famous old German university town, and archiepiscopal seat, Freiburg was incorporated in the early twelfth century and developed into a major commercial, intellectual, and ecclesiastical center of the upper Rhine region. The city is known for its medieval minster and Renaissance university, as well as for its high standard of living and advanced environmental practices. The city is situated in the heart of the major Baden wine-growing region and serves as the primary tourist entry point to the scenic beauty of the Black Forest.
The seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries were turbulent times for Freiburg. At the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War there were 10,000-14,000 citizens in Freiburg; by its end only 2,000 remained. During this war and other conflicts, at various times the city belonged to the Austrians, the French, the Swedish, the Spanish, and various members of the German Confederacy. Between 1648 and 1805, it was the administrative headquarters of Further Austria, the Habsburg territories in the southwest of Germany, when the city was not under French occupation. In 1805, the city, together with the Breisgau and Ortenau areas, became part of Baden.
In 1827, when the Archdiocese of Freiburg was founded, Freiburg became the seat of a Catholic archbishop.