126-year-old North Okanagan mansion opens to public for the first time

126-year-old North Okanagan mansion opens to public for the first time

The Caetani House in Vernon, formerly owned by the late Canadian artist Sveva Caetani, is now open to the public for the first time. (Caetani Cultural Centre) For the first time ever, a 126-year-old heritage mansion left behind by a noble Italian family in the North Okanagan is now open to the public.

Last month, the Caetani House in Vernon, B.C. — formerly owned by the late Canadian artist Sveva Caetani — began offering guided tours of its artifacts, memorabilia and Caetani’s artwork.

Built in 1895 on 3401 Pleasant Valley Rd., the Caetani House is a late Victorian vernacular revival style building bequeathed by Caetani to the City of Vernon in 1994 for community cultural use.

The designated heritage site was purchased in 1921 by the artist’s father Leone Caetani, who carried the titles Duke of Sermoneta and Prince of Teano before coming to Canada with his wife, Ofelia Fabiani, and daughter to flee the fascist regime in Italy. A family portrait shows Sveva Caetani, left, Ofelia Fabiani and Leone Caetani in 1921, shortly before the family’s departure for Canada. (Vernon Museum and Archives) After his death in 1935, Fabiani suffered a psychological breakdown and lived in seclusion with her daughter for 25 years. Fabiani died in 1960, Sveva Caetani in 1994.

The Caetani Cultural Centre Society, established in 2008, has previously organized outdoor concerts and art exhibitions on the grounds.

The society considered displaying the house’s interior after retrieving the Caetani family’s artifacts from the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives and the Kelowna Museums. Canadian artist Sveva Caetani died in 1994. She lived in seclusion with her mother for 25 years. (Heidi Thompson) In March, Sveva Caetani’s artwork Recapitulation — a series of 53 large watercolour paintings inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy — was also permanently returned by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts in Edmonton.

“You could stare at one painting for an hour, and I see new things every time I come in this room,” Kristin Froneman, a board member of Caetani Cultural Centre, told CBC’s Jennifer Chrumka in the gallery on Thursday.

“She went through isolation and fear and probably depression and then hopefulness — all those emotions are evoked by these pieces.” Sveva Caetani’s artwork series Recapitulation was returned from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts in Edmonton in March. (Jennifer Chrumka/CBC) For more than a decade before her self-imposed isolation, Fabiani lived an enviable international life travelling to Europe and New York City. She even kept up personal correspondence with Coco Chanel’s dressmakers and would visit the runways in Paris during the spring fashion season.

“There’s shoes, there’s purses, we have an ostrich leather purse and things like that,” Froneman said. “They’re absolutely beautiful, timeless, classic designs.” Kristin Froneman says she has been amazed by the family artifacts and artwork of Sveva Caetani. (Jennifer Chrumka/CBC) The centre’s executive director Susan Brandoli, who knew Caetani personally, said it means a lot to her having all the artwork and artifacts back in the house.

“We really feel that the work and the story and […]

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