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Marella Agnelli, widow of Fiat tycoon, dies at 91 in Turin

February 23, 2019
FILE - Giovanni Agnelli and his wife Marella Caracciolo are shown in this 1988 file photo. Italian state TV and news agency ANSA say Marella Agnelli, widow of Fiat tycoon Gianni Agnelli and a 20th-century symbol of elegant beauty and culture in Italy, has died at her family home in Turin, in the northern Piedmont region, at age 91. (AP Photo/Alberto Ramella, File)

ROME (AP) — Marella Agnelli, widow of Fiat tycoon Gianni Agnelli and a 20th-century symbol of elegance and beauty, died Saturday at her family home in Turin, in Italy’s northern Piedmont region, at age 91.

Her death was reported by Italian state TV and the Juventus soccer team, which is part of the Agnelli economic empire.

Piedmont Gov. Sergio Chiamparino said Italy lost “an illustrious figure who accompanied Turin’s 20th-century history with grace and elegance.”

The daughter of a Neapolitan aristocrat, Filippo Caracciolo di Castagneto, and of an Illinois-born mother, Margaret Clarke, Marella Caracciolo was born in Florence in 1927.

With an academic arts background from studies in Paris, she did photography for Conde Nast publications and also designed textiles, including for U.S. manufacturers and department stores.

Agnelli herself was the subject of a photo that became an iconic fashion image — a 1953 black-and-white portrait by Richard Avedon highlighting her long, graceful neck and dignified beauty. Her elongated neck earned her the nickname of “The Swan.”

That same year, she married Giovanni “Gianni” Agnelli, the dashingly handsome scion of the Fiat automobile company who had a playboy reputation. The couple had two children, Edoardo, who died in 2000, and Margherita.

Marella Agnelli was admired for her style and class, a standout beauty in a family likened to royalty in Italy, where residents eagerly followed their jet-set lifestyle. Her husband died in 2003.

The Juventus soccer team hailed her arts patronage, including as honorary president of the Giovanni and Marella Agnelli Pinacoteca, an art gallery in Turin, the Fiat headquarters city.

She published several books about gardens, one of her passions. In 2014, her autobiographical “The Last Swan,” co-authored with a niece, was published.

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