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Style Icon: Marella Agnelli

Culture Watch

Style icons and socialites are an ever-present part of the fashion scene. Yet the swans of decades past still hold a presence that hasn’t quite been replicated by their modern-day counterparts. And undoubtedly the most notable among these original creatures is Marella Agnelli.

Style legend Marella Agnelli has had an almost unimaginably glamorous life, one that has been captured in a new book out from Rizzoli this month, “Marella Agnelli: The Last Swan.” Together with her niece Marella Caracciolo Chia, Agnelii tells the riveting story of personal memoirs and anecdotes, and an unprecedented tour through the homes and gardens that have provided the sophisticated settings for her beloved family and many friends.

Nicknamed “The Swan” by Richard Avedon when he photographed her iconic portraits in 1953, Agnelli was not only one of the great beauties of the last century, but also the most elegant and cultured of that exclusive club which famously included Babe Paley, Gloria Guinness, Slim Keith and C.Z. Guest among others.

One of the most photographed women of jet-set society, Marella was captured not only by Avedon, but Irving Penn, Henry Clarke, Horst, and Robert Doisneau, among others.

Born the Neapolitan princess Marella Caracciolo di Castagneto, she became Marella Agnelli in 1953 upon her marriage to Gianni Agnelli, of Fiat fame. However, the innate style for which she is internationally revered dates back to her New York internship with photographer Erwin Blumenfeld, and her time as a Vogue contributor in the 1950s and 60s, when she also appeared in its pages.

And as lasting as her compelling images, is the numerous homes she shared with her husband. In the fifty years of her marriage, Marella has collaborated with outstanding architects, designers, and gardeners to create homes in the mountains, by the sea, in the city and the country, and on both sides of the Atlantic.

With Italian interior design legend Renzo Mongiardino—who worked on her New York apartment alongside a young Peter Marino—to Gae Aulenti, the important Italian architect, who designed homes in Milan and Marrakech—Marella Agnelli created a series of extraordinary houses and gardens, full of timeless elegance, invaluable art, and groundbreaking decorating ideas. Shot by legendary photographers including Eric Boman, Oberto Gili, François Halard, and Marina Schinz, many images are being published in The Last Swan for the first time.

Available at Books & Books Bal Harbour.

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