Say what you will about LIFE, but one trait the long-lived weekly magazine wisely eschewed throughout the years was an unbecoming false modesty. During its four-decade run as one of the world’s most influential publications, LIFE routinely made sweeping statements about topics big and small, secure in the belief that its opinion not only mattered but was — in some obscure, tacit way — definitive.
Consider, for instance, these lines from a memorable 1963 feature, “The Italian Man: That Supercharged Bundle of Sentiment, Ego and Exuberance”:
The photo above, meanwhile — made by Paul Schutzer, who was equally adept at photographing wars, world leaders, film stars, natural disasters, you name it — might be the single most romantic image ever published in the pages of LIFE. It is tender, but not at all soft. It is unabashedly sensual, but light-years from crude. A near-palpable warmth, both physical and emotional, emanates from the frame.
He treats fleeting moments as if they were the most important in his life — because they are. Schutzer’s picture captures one fleeting moment, perfectly — a moment, it’s worth noting, that would not feel quite so voluptuous, quite so casually chic, if the man with the comb and the woman in his arms weren’t, somehow, so quintessentially Italian.
The rest of us, no matter where we’re from, can only look at them, and sigh.