Gloeden paid his many models well and even opened bank accounts for them, which often made it possible for them to start some business of their own. It is said that there are still families in the area who owe their prosperity, next to their own work, to the impetus from the earnings of a great-grandfather who was a model for il barone.
Gloeden had to leave his beloved town in 1915 when Italy entered the First World War against Germany. His house was kept by a former model, then his assistant, Pancrazio Bucini (called il Moro), until the expatriate's return in 1919.
Many of Gloeden's models had lost their lives in combat. With the disastrous upheaval of the war, the changed social climate, and the dwindling importance of former educational ideals borrowed from antiquity, Gloeden's pictures appeared outmoded and were much less in demand. The catastrophe also left its mark on Gloeden, who mourned the loss of former models killed in the war. He reverted only hesitantly to the subject that had made him famous. The time of the Greek dream was over.
Wilhelm von Gloeden died in 1931 in Taormina. In his best days, from about 1890 to 1914, he had been so productive that the complete corpus of his male photographs was estimated to be up to 7,000.
Italy was ruled by fascism, and von Gloeden's estate, then owned by Bucini, was raided by the police in 1933 and 1936. Bucini was charged with selling pornographic pictures, but acquitted in a trial in Messina. Nevertheless, about three quarters of the negatives were destroyed. However, today the work is slowly being pieced together from collections around the world. This site is a contribution to that effort.