The painter William Stanley Haseltine spent most of his career living and working in Europe. In 1855, Haseltine traveled to Germany to study landscape painting with Andreas Achenbach at the Düsseldorf Academy. At the Academy, Haseltine befriended the artists Emanuel Leutze, Worthington Whittredge, and Albert Bierstadt, with whom he traveled to Switzerland and Italy in 1856. Haseltine spent two years in Rome, returning to the United States in 1858.
By 1869, Haseltine was back in Rome, where he and his family settled in the sixteenth-century Villa Alfieri in the Piazza del Gesu. The Haseltine home, which was filled with art and antiques, became a gathering place for artists, writers, and foreign visitors. From his home base in Rome, Haseltine spent the next two decades traveling and painting throughout Italy and the rest of Europe. He painted this view of the volcano Mt. Aetna while standing amid the ruins of an ancient theater in Taormina, a small village on the east coast of Sicily.