Sveva’s Story


Portrait of Sveva Caetani, taken by photographer Heidi Thompson

Life became difficult for eighteen-year-old Sveva after the death of her father from cancer in 1934. Her mother Ofelia suffered both physically and mentally from the loss and chose a reclusive life, forcing Sveva to join her. Sveva was not allowed to leave the house at first, but after a time, she was allowed to walk around the garden and eventually into town for banking. Sveva was effectively housebound from 1935 until 1960 when her mother passed away. It was only after Ofelia’s death that Sveva was free to pursue her own interests.

Rejoining the community, she earned her teaching degree at the University of Victoria and went on to instruct Visual Arts at Charles Bloom Secondary School in Lumby. Additional information regarding Sveva Caetani and the Caetani Family can be found at the website of the CURA project of the University of Victoria, entitled Caetani di Sermoneta: An Italian Family in Vernon 1921 – 1994. Karen Avery completed her M.A. thesis on Sveva Caetani, 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. Additional information may also be found at the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives, and in Okanagan History Vignettes: Sveva Caetani: A Fairy Tale Life through Copian: Connecting Canadians in Learning.

Sveva Caetani passed away on April 24 1994. She bequeathed the Caetani House and grounds to the City of Vernon in her Will, with the wish that they be utilized for the benefit of the residents of Vernon and the surrounding area for use in all artistic pursuits.

Sveva’s Artwork

In 1978 Sveva began painting her masterpiece, a series of 56 large, luminous watercolours that would recount the story of her life. Despite her failing health, she completed the series in 1989. Titled Recapitulation, it is now housed by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts in Edmonton.

In 1995 the book Recapitulation – A Journey by Sveva Caetani di Sermoneta was published by Heidi Thompson. Heidi spent many years with Sveva documenting her life and art. Her book is available from the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives or through her website

The Caetani Cultural Centre Society gratefully acknowledges the Vernon Public Art Gallery Society as current copyright holder for the use of the Caetani artwork images.