One of the things that always comes to mind when I think of my home city is the Agnelli family. They are engrained in the fabric of the city, their influence visible in every FIAT crowding the streets, in the factories on the outside of town, in the massive worker population, and in the social rankings of the city– those associated with the clan are immediately accorded a superior status. Agnelli owned the elementary school I went to. Agnelli’s bodyguards dangerously crowded the narrow roads I rode up on my Vespa on my way home from town. The sound of his helicopter overhead interrupted lazy afternoons in the garden. I caught glimpses of him on his way to church, his ancient, almost reptilian profile staring serenely forward, complacent in the knowledge that he had made this city, that his company was synonymous with it.
When he died, the city was thrown into disarray, uncertain what to do without its symbol. Somehow, all of Torino’s other glories became irrelevant — its history as the first capital of united Italy, its beautiful architecture, its truly amazing food– all this became secondary to its new identity as the car city, presided over by the industrialist Agnelli.
I wasn’t crazy about him, or his hold over the city, but I have to admit that he was a pretty fascinating figure. He took his family car business and revolutionised it. He dated Rita Hayworth and Anita Ekberg, and was a friend of the Kennedys and Kruschev. Kruschev once famously brushed aside Italian politicians in order to greet him, saying that Agnelli would be the one to stay in power in Italy. He was famous for his
style. In my head, he embodies what I think of when I think of male Italian fashion– the elegance, confidence and oft-quoted sprezzatura. Pictures below.
As a boy in his family’s Bugatti.
As a youth.
With his grandfather.
Wedding to Marella Agnelli.
With his family
With the Kennedys in Newport. (He was rumoured to have had an affair with Jackie! !!! !!!)
Older, with his son.
Painted by Warhol