Fonds A-32; C-130 (PHO Box #2). - Leone and Ofelia Caetani fonds

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Leone and Ofelia Caetani fonds

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Reference code

CMC A-32; C-130 (PHO Box #2).

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  • [between 1960-1984] - [ca.1915], copied 1993. (Creation)

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Physical description

123 photographs.

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Biographical history

Leone Caetani, Duke di Sermoneta and Prince of Teano (born 1869) and Ofelia (Fabiani) Caetani (born 1896) lived the privileged life of Italian aristocrats. The Caetani family can trace their ancestors to the 8th century B.C.E. and include among them two Popes. Duke Leone was also a renowned scholar and historian of Islam who contributed to the production of the 10 volume reference work Annals of Islam, still a standard reference text. Duke Leone also served as an artillery officer in the first war and for years as a member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. Duke Leone and Ofelia, Leone's second wife, had one child - a daughter born in 1917. The social changes which followed WW I precipitated a drastic reduction in the Caetani family fortunes and Duke Leone responded by relinquishing his titles to his brother Roffredo and abandoning his Islamic studies. The family immigrated to Canada along with their Danish secretary, 'Miss' Jûûl (who was a companion to Ofelia Caetani), and settled in the B.C. interior near Vernon. Duke Leone was an avid hunter and he had made previous trips to Canada. The first of these was to hunt grizzlies in the Kootenays in 1891 and he had fond memories of how he had enjoyed the Canadian wilderness on that trip.

Ofelia Caetani was known for her impeccable taste and fashionable wardrobe; she continued to make trips to Paris to buy clothes until 1931. Following Duke Leone's death in 1935, Ofelia lived a life of virtual seclusion which her daughter Sveva shared. It was during this time that Sveva began to paint. Ofelia passed away in 1960 following a lengthy illness. Following her mother's death in 1960, Sveva obtained a teaching degree and taught until her retirement in 1983. Although confined to wheelchair in later years, Sveva continued to paint. Sveva passed away in 1994.

Custodial history

The items described here were donated to the Costume Museum of Canada between 1991 and 1993 by Grace Funk acting on behalf of Sveva Caetani di Sermoneta.

Scope and content

Items described here consist of an album containing 103 colour images. The album was compiled to serve as a record of Ofelia's wardrobe prior to its sale following her death and was likely created between 1960 and 1984. According to notes made by Museum curator Dr. Jane Fuller at the time of the donation the model, Mrs. Shirley Paine, was chosen for her resemblance to Ofelia. Also described here are 2 original black and white prints as well as 13 copies featuring Leone and Ofelia Caetani and their daughter Sveva. The originals of these copies have been accessioned by the Vernon Museum. In addition there are 4 colour photographs and 1 colour Polaroid of Ofelia's Louis Vuitton luggage, which has also been donated to the Museum.

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No restrictions on access.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

No use or reproduction without prior permission.

Finding aids

The Finding Aid is the fonds description.

Associated materials

Associated material: Items from Ofelia's wardrobe were auctioned by Sotheby's New York following her death. Documentary and other materials pertaining to this family have also been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Chanel firm, the Vernon Museum and Archives in Vernon, B.C., and the Kelowna Museum.

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No further accruals are expected.

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  • English

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