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The Caetani Family Project


This CURA project was based on Caetani family collections in the Greater Vernon Museum & Archives and the Vernon Art Gallery. Leone Caetani, Duke of Sermoneta, his wife Ofelia Fabiani, their daughter Sveva, and the household companion Miss Jüül emigrated from Italy to Vernon in 1921. Leone Caetani, from an aristocratic family with a well documented lineage dating to the Middle Ages, was an Italian politician and a renowned Islamic scholar. His daughter Sveva, late in her life, emerged as a remarkable artist and teacher. She died in Vernon in 1994.

The Museum houses extensive holdings of family archives and artifacts that document the history and contribution of the family to the community. The research project at the Museum provided an opportunity to add a fascinating story to the larger chronicle of immigrant families in British Columbia in the early part of the twentieth century.

The Art Gallery collection includes artworks by Sveva Caetani and her artist friends in Vernon. The Gallery's component of the project centred on Caetani's evolution as an artist and teacher. In the fall of 2003 these institutions co-hosted the exhibition Caetani: Visions of Rebirth, with the museum focusing on the history of the Caetani family and the gallery featuring the art of Sveva Caetani. The gallery component of the exhibition, Sveva Caetani: Selected Drawings and Paintings of Recapitulation, travelled to the University of Victoria where it was on display in the McPherson Library Gallery from Nov. 19, 2003 to Jan. 15, 2004. During the summer of 2003, UVic History in Art students Karen Avery and Carla Yarish worked at the Vernon Art Gallery and the Vernon Museum, respectively, assisting with the preparation of the exhibitions.

A catalogue entitled Caetani di Sermoneta: An Italian Family in Vernon, 1921-1994, written by the UVic research team, was produced to accompany the exhibition. Further information about the Caetani Collection and the Vernon exhibitions can be found on the Vernon Museum web site at

Karen Avery has now completed her M.A. thesis on Sveva Caetani. The thesis is entitled The Elusive Self: Storytelling and the Journey to Identity in Sveva Caetani's Autobiographical Series “Recapitulation” and is available for viewing at the History in Art department office at the University of Victoria.


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