145. Topazia Alliata (1913-2015)

Painter, entrepreneur, writer and gallery owner born in Palermo, Alliata was the daughter of Prince Enrico Alliata di Villafranca (July 5, 1879 – December 14 1946), a member of a Sicilian aristocratic family (owner of the wines “Corvo” and last Lord of the cellars of Casteldaccia) and the aristocratic Sonia Maria Amelia de Ortuzar Ovalle de Olivarez, daughter of a Chilean diplomat and promising young opera singer (a pupil of Enrico Caruso).

Topazia grew in a family environment rich in cultural stimuli. As a young painter, she joined a pictorial avant-garde movement and exhibits paintings. Although born in one of the most aristocratic families in Sicily, her friends were among the “common” people and included Nino Franchina and Renato Guttuso. While her family had chosen as her husband an English earl, in 1935 she married a then unknown Florentine intellectual, curator and director of the Venice Biennale, who would later become one of the greatest anthropologists of the twentieth century: Fosco Maraini.

Topazia Alliata, Self-Portrait
Topazia Alliata, Self-Portrait

Strong anti-fascists, the couple found living under Mussolini intolerable and in 1938, with their infant daughter Dacia, moved from Florence to Japan (where they had two additional children Yuki and Toni). Maraini went on to teach Italian literature at Kyoto University. In 1943, having refused to swear allegiance to Mussolini’s Republic of Salo (as demanded by the Japanese government), the family was interned in a Japanese concentration camp at Nagoya, where they remained for two years kept on starvation rations, beaten and humiliated.

In 1946, after the war the family moved into the monumental Villa Valguarnera in Bagheria, Sicily. The same year his father died and Topazia succeeded at the helm of the cellars “Casteldaccia” and cretated the wine “Colomba Platino” (Platinum Dove). A white wine still produced with the “Corvo” brand. A few years later (1959), not able to revive the fortunes of the company Topazia had to sell the wine family business ending hundreds of years bond between the Alliata family and the wineries of Casteldaccia. In those years she got close to Danilo Dolci, father of nonviolence and the fight against the Mafia, but without ever officially join any political party.

Having divorced, in 1959 Topazia moved to Rome and opened an art gallery in Trastevere, the “Galleria Topazia Alliata”. She socialized with Peggy Guggenheim and at her gallery exhibited both Italian and international artists, including Piero Manzoni and Jannis Kounellis. She was particularly fond of experimental work. In the 1970s she helped to found the Guttuso Museum in Bagheria, dedicated to her old friend from Palermo.

In later life she published her war diaries and Love holidays: Quaderni d’amore e di viaggi (2014), which combined her and Fosco’s travel diaries with photographs of the couple from the 1930s. Topazia died in Rome in 2015 at the age of one hundred and two years. When her grandchild asked her what life had taught her, Topazia replied “Freedom of thought. Nothing is more important.”

Read More:
1. The Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/12161560/Princess-Topazia-Alliata-obituary.html
2. Wikipedia, https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topazia_Alliata

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