Okanagan woman with royal Italian history to be featured in a book
Italian author Pietro Vitelli traveled to the Okanagan this week to visit Caetani House, the former Vernon home of artist and teacher Sveva Caetani.
Caetani’s father, Leone Caetani, was a nobleman and scholar in Italy; her mother, Ophelia Fabiani, was his mistress.
The family moved to Canada in 1921 to start a new life together.
Vitelli is researching a book he is writing about the late artist, her generosity and unusual early life, “inspired by the story, the life and the drama.”
Caetani was kept a virtual prisoner in her family’s mansion on East Hill in Vernon by her mother, according to historians, who said Fabiani became mentally and physically ill after Sveva’s father’s death in 1935.
Leone sold all his properties in Italy and invested the money in the stock market, where it was lost during the crash of 1929, according to Vitelli.
Sveva pursued her teaching degree after her mother’s death in 1960, at the age of 44.
She became an art instructor at Lumby’s Charles Bloom Secondary.
A series of 56 watercolours she produced in retirement, while in poor health, were donated to The Alberta Foundation for the Arts in Edmonton.
Caetani willed her family’s mansion to the City of Vernon upon her death in 1994, a place that is now “very important to the education of people and for the arts,” according to Vitelli.
“Today in that house, artists with little money can for $10 a day, they can stay to read, to think, to write, to paint,” Vitelli said.
Vitelli’s book on Sveva Caetani is expected to be complete by 2019. He also plans on offering lectures on her story in the future.