John Singer Sargent's Head of a Capri Girl
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Head of a Capri Girl 
John Singer Sargent -- American painter 
Private collection 
 Oil on canvas 
22.9 x 25.4 cm (9 x 10 in.) 
Jpg: The Pragmatic Romanticist

The painting had originally been identified as a Sicilian Girl, but later more properly identified with Sargent's Capri trip of 1878, The painting is often thought to be of Rosina Ferrara but Ormond and Elaine think her face is longer than the apparently more oval face in Sargent's other paintings of Rosina.  



Sargent in Italy, 2002-2003 

Sargent's Women,  Adelson Galleries, New York, 2003

Subject: Rosa Ferraro aka Rosina Ferrara (Rose Barse) 
From: Michele Lener 
mi chele.le
Date: 3/1/00 

The beautiful Sargent model, Rosina, was born in Capri, 1862. She had a girl, Maria, about 1883; married in Rome, 1891, to George Randolph Barse Jr., a painter born in Detroit, 1861.  

In 1892 they moved to the US, New York City. Probably, Rosina and George R. divorced very soon after their arrival in the US. Rosina died on 1934 in Flushing, Queens, NY; George R. died on 1938, elsewhere (NYC or Katonah, NY ?). 

I hope this information can be of interest to you. Could you please give me some information about the Sargent stay in Capri? I mean particularly about the social and artistic milieu in which he lived there. 

Thank you, 
Michele Lener 

From: Natasha 

This is wonderful!!! how do you know about this information? Did you read it in a book? Are you family of Rosina Ferrara? 

Sargent’s early work at Capri seems to be a favorite with people and I include myself. Give me a couple of weeks to give this a thoughtful response and I’ll see what I can do – you present an interesting question that I’d like to answer as well. 



From: Michele Lener 
mic hele.le
Date: 3/2/00 

STEP 1 My search started about two weeks ago, from a fortuitous finding on internet Family Search: the marriage in Rome (20 Jan 1891) between Rose Ferraro (born in Capri, 19 nov 1862) and George Randolph Barse (born in Detroit, Mi, 31 Jul 1861). I was puzzled about it: a young US man with a remarkable pedigree, probably wealthy and educated, married a country woman not so young (for that century), probably poor and perhaps illiterate, who eventually died in an immigrant neighborhood of New York City (5 Nov 1934). 

STEP 2 Internet keyword search: George Randolph Barse. Results: he was a painter. 

STEP 3      "              "               "         Painter + Capri. Results: JSS, your website, the portraits of a Capri girl named Rosina. 

STEP 4      "              "               "         John Singer Sargent + Capri. Results: the Capri girl was Rosina Ferrara. 

STEP 5 I went to Rome National Library to consult the ABI (American Biography Index) searching for G.R. Barse Jr., and I found that in 1907 he was a member of New York Century Club and used to spend the summer at his country home in Katonah. Moreover, that he had married in Rome Rosina Ferrara, and had a married stepdaughter, Maria, 24 years old . My research will go on, with your help, I hope. 

Michele Lener 

From: Natasha 

Dear Michele, 

I finally have the Capri pages done and I found it all very fascinating. The information you sent was most helpful, however I am finding a possible discrepancy. according to Ormond and Kilmurray, Rosina and George live in Westchester, New York. I’m pretty sure that Ormond and  Kilmurray got their information from Olson’s book which had a great footnote about a rumor of who might have fathered the daughter: 

Footnote in Olson’s book, P. 69 

Rosina Ferrara (?1861-1925) enjoyed a life well suited to her romantic appearance. She had a bastard daughter rumored to be the offspring of royalty. Later, Rosina married the American painter Gerorge Randolph Barse (1861-c.1936) and lived with him in Westchester, New York. Her sister was equally beautiful, but led a less dramatic life. (I am indebted to Mr. Graham Williford for this information about Rosina.)
The rumor seems far fetched -- but what a great rumor. Mr. Graham Williford may have just been guessing that they lived "happily-ever-after". There is no mention of a divorce or when it happened. Your speculation of their divorce seems quite possible, at least to me, given where she died, though I wonder why you thought it happened soon after their arrival. I mean it would make sense, but are you just assuming? 

According to Ormond and Kilmurray, Rosia was painted by many artist. There is an engraving done by Charles Sprague Pearce, “Rosia c. 1881-82 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Also R.S. Leuders did an engraving of a profile study called “A Fair Capriote” and Jean Bean (1836-1909) painted many themes in Capri and there is a beautiful profile painting very similar to Sargent's (looks like Rosina to me) called Bellezza Caprese, oil on panel 41.3 x 33.8 cm that sold in Christie’s sale, London, June 17, 1994. 

Could you help me out? I have never had the pleasure of visiting Italy nor the wonderful Capri. In Sargent's letter to  Ben Castillo he describes places along the shoreline -- are these things of antiquity – ruins? And might you or someone roughly give me an idea of what he’s talking about? The passage is as follows: 

We are going over to Sarrento in a day or two to visit her, and I have agreed to keep her husband’s interest rivetted to Vesuvius, Baiae, Pozzuoli and other places along the distant opposite shore.

From: Michele Lener
mic hele.le
Date: 5/16/00 

Dear Natasha, 

a) about the divorce: yes, I was assuming; I'm not sure at all. 

b) about Westchester: coming back from Italy, since 1892 George Barse has resided in New York City during the winter (address: Century Club) and at country place "Lone Pine", near Katonah, NY,  during the summer. Katonah is one of the three hamlets constituting the town of Bedford in the Northern Westchester County. (from "Men and Women of America, 1910 and "Biographical sketches of American Artists" by H. L. Earle, 1924). 

c) Moreover, in the "Dictionary of Nineteenth-century American artists in Italy" by Regina Soria, is reported that Barse died 1938 in Capri! [but this is later refuted by another source]. 

d) in the book "ISS" by Patricia Hills, you can read in a footnote: "Odile Duff was very kind let me read her unpublished manuscript on the Capri paintings". Perhaps this Odile Duff is the same living at Lake Shore Drive, Shelter Island NY 11964. 

e) Capri is in the southern part of the Gulf of Naples, near Sorrento (a delicious small fisher village). In the middle there is the Mount Vesuvius, at north Pozzuoli (a village with some important roman ruins) and Baiae, the remains of an ancient roman sea resort. 

f) I found the following on the web: the sculptor Madeleine Fish Park (1891-1960), leaving in Katonah NY, under the tutelage of the painter George Barse, who also lived in Katonah, studied anatomy around 1926. The Barses took her to Italy in 1928 to encourage and guide her study. ( 


From: Michele Lener
mic hele.le
Date: 5/17/00 

Dear Natasha, 

I've just received from US a copy of a short biography of G.R. Barse taken from The National Cyclopedia of American Biography, ed.1940. 
"...Barse was self-educated in many fields and had a genial, cheerful, lovable personality. He was married in Rome, Italy, Jan. 4, 1891, to Rosa, daughter of Bartolomeo Ferraro, of the island of Capri; later in life he adopted his wife' niece, Maria Primavera, wife of Pompeius Michael Bernardo. His death occurred at Katonah, N.Y., Feb. 24, 1938." 


From: Natasha 

Dear Michele, 

This is great, so it looks like they weren't divorced after all.  : ) 

From: George Field <Jo  rge > 
Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2001 

Dear Ms. Wallace, 

I came across your site while conducting a search for a painting by my great great great uncle, George Randolph Barse. I noticed your discussion on my great great great aunt Rose Barse (nee Ferrara). I am intrigued that there is an interest in Rose. I will however let you know that, they never divorced. My parents know the family history thoroughly, as verified by Maria Primavera. I am glad to see that people still know about and are interested in my Aunt. 

George Field 

From: Natasha 

Dear George,  

How wonderful to have heard from you. Have you found  Stephanie's page on George Randolph Barse 

There is very much interest in your great great great aunt Rose Barse and we would all love to hear more. You mentioned Maria Primavera? Was this family or an author that had written about Rose? Is there any family pictures of her that you might share with us? We're all very curious of this "great beauty" that had captured the imagination of so many people. I would love to work with you on getting some of your family history up on the web if you are interested in that. Let me know and it was a joy to have heard from you 

best regards, 


From: George Field <Jo rge > 
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2001 

To get the family history, you would have to speak to my mother or father. Maria was the adopted (Rose's niece) daughter of George and Rose. I noticed your address in Kansas City. Are you a dealer? A historian? I would be interested to know who the authorities at this point are, on George and Rose. 

George Field 

From: Natasha 


if your parents are on the Internet you might let them know about my page, I would love to hear from them. Even if George and Rose's story is nothing more than just raising a family in the States, it would be interesting to hear what became of them. I don't know who is the authority on George Field. 

From: Carol J. Lancaster, PhD <>  
Tue, 16 Oct 2001  

Why are you so interested in Rosina Ferraro and George Barse? 

Carol J. Lancaster, PhD 
Institutional Research and Assessment 
Medical University of South Carolina 

From: Natasha 
Tue, 17 Oct 2001  

Why do we lean into a bush of honeysuckle to smell its sent? Why do we smile at the burning remains of an autumn sunset? Why do we climb mountains higher than what can sustain us? Why do we dig up burial grounds to study broken pottery? Why are we interested in knowing what it was like to be held in shackles and chains in a stinking rotting belly of a ship off the coast of Africa, shrouded in fearful darkness, under the decks of men with whips, pitching against angry waves, jammed shoulder to shoulder, arms and legs aching, frightened, alone, stuck between stinking hot sweaty bodies, hearing the unholy moan of anguish from the dying and the putrid stench of the dead mixed with vomit sloshing in the swill of saltwater as your carried to a land of slavery and hopelessness? Why are we interested in Dickens' story of a child walking the crowded streets of London, homeless, orphaned and at the mercy of ruthless thugs in 1850? Why do we really want to know what happened between Thomas Jefferson and his lover in that gorgeous house all the way up that hill overlooking his beloved Virginia? Why are we curious in the feel of a dusty old insignificant cantina in the heartland of Spain, far away from any power and wealth, and what it must have really been like to listen to Gypsies dance and play Flamenco for the joy of it and for themselves? What do I get out of imagining a group of women sitting in an old dilapidated palazzo putting together curiosities for tourists in Venice in 1880. Why am I interested in what they may have thought? What their life was like?  Why do I care about the on-again off-again schedule of a ferryboat that carried passengers from the mainland to the island of Capri? Why is it important to know that it was repressively hot in the summer of 1878?  Why would I care that mosquitoes might have been as big as horseflies? that sleeping was near impossible? That you'd probably sit up for hours in your room in the dead of night drawing down the last crackling glow of a fag cigarette listening to the rigging of the boats outside the harbor hotel were you're staying, your clothes wrinkled in the battered well-traveled suitcase, your brushes and paint still packed neatly from Paris, your sketch pad scribbled with ideas of gnarled old olive trees, and the remains of bad beer very much unsettled in your stomach? Why would it interest us about some silly flirtation of an unknown German long ago egging Sargent to come along with him so as he could distract the attention of a husband? Why would I want to know his reason for being in Capri that year? what was his name? where in Germany did he live? What ever became of his life? Why are we interested in some old abandoned monastery? What do we get out of visualizing that possibly part of the old roof had fallen in, or that weeds may have been growing between the once manicured stones of the walk? Why do i want to visualize the astonishment on Frank Hyde's face in finding one of Sargent's paintings on the floor of a carpenter's shop? What's it to us to know about the laugh of two lovers overlooking the sparkling blue water atop the cliffs of Capri, or imagine the charm of an American artists in his 30's with his silly accent amusing a stunning native woman (now 29 and with a child), her countenance still beautiful, but matured ten some-odd years after the image that Sargent gave us? How had she changed? What was it like on capri for her? What do I get out of knowing how many sisters she may have had? How successful George ever became? if she modeled for him a lot?  how she liked living in America? if she adapted well? The places George tried to sell his work? how much he earned from it? if they traveled much or visited  back to Capri? If their life was full or tragic, or just like any other of the million stories in New York? if she lived to hold grandchildren? 

Why am I so interested? 

Well, I'm interested because it's a human story, with human dimensions and it's all about flushing out the life and times of a very real person. She had feelings. She knew what it was like to be in the arms of a lover, she cried at the death of someone in her family -- just like you and I, and now over 120 years later she still looks to us, and us to her and she'll continue to look to those who replace us when we're dead. She bridges a broad span of humanity.  

I'm interested because we learn about ourselves in the process.  I'm interested because,  people are essentially the same with hopes and dreams as they had a hundred and thirty years ago -- theirs were  just couched in a little different context. Why am I interested? Because she was beautiful, because she captured the imagination of a number of artists, but fell in love with George and they married -- why? It was a curious marriage (given their ages) and so I wanted to know all about him. I want to know what kind of art he did, where he studied. I want to know it all.  

And why do I want to know it all?  

Why not.  

Because it gives me a smile in the same way the sweet smell of  honeysuckle gives me a smile. Because it tickles me in that similar way I'm tickled from hearing a child's laugh. Why do painters paint? Why do artists create art?  Why did Barse and Sargent create art? When it's all said and done, it comes down to the commonality of the human experience. Why? Because it's knowable. Because it's a great story. Because it's there. Because we're human. Because she's a reflection of us. 

That's pretty much it. Thanks for a great question. 

All my best 


From: Stephanie <Je nj >  
Thu, 18 Oct 2001  

That was a beautiful response to Dr. Carol Lancaster's question of why we are so interested in Rosina and George Barse.  It's because George was an obscure, wealthy  artist who studied art in Paris and painted in various locations such as Capri, New York, and Washington, DC It's difficult to find books that are devoted solely to him and his works, his life with magnificent Rosina, who was a model and a source of inspiration for many artists, John Singer Sargent included.  If Dr. Lancaster is really interested in Rosina and George Barse, she could take a stroll to my website, Rosina Ferrara  . . . 

I hope I'm doing my job in educating the next generation by telling Rosina's and George's life story. I know you are doing yours by telling John Singer Sargent's life story, his accomplishments, his family, and his muses and patrons.  These stories must be told in order to keep memories alive.    



From: K R <southe rnflam>  
Date: Fri, 3 May 2002  


You never answered the question.  Why ARE you so 
interested in Rosina and George?  And how did yall get all that criticism out of one little question? 

BTW, Maria Primavera (NOT Maria Carlotta) married P.M. Bernardo.  Maria Carlotta was Rosina's daughter. 

Southern Flame 

From: Natasha 
Date: Fri, 3 May 2002  

Okay, my first answer was admittedly over the top and verbose. In it, I was trying to show my emotional appeal to the subject. How about this:  

1) (premise) Natasha Wallace is deeply interested in great stories that have never been told.  

2) (premise) Rosina and George show all signs of a great story that has never been told.  


3) Natasha Wallace is deeply interested in Rosina and George's story. 

As for criticism? Of whom? Of what? None was meant by me. I don't see any from anyone else. Possibly you misread the intent? 

Thank you very much for the correction. Since I have two conflicting facts -- since mistakes are easily made by anyone -- especially myself -- since it sounds like you know what you're talking about -- will you source where you get this  information from, so we can get it right? 



By:  Natasha Wallace
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