It's impossible to think of Turin, home of the 2006 Winter Olympics, without thinking of the Agnellis, the rich, powerful, much speculated-about Fiat clan. And no one has personified that family's enduring elegance better than Marella Agnelli, widow of equally stylish Giovanni, a.k.a. Gianni. In 1953, Richard Avedon shot and hand-altered a famous portrait of the half-American, half-Neopolitan princess to emphasize the extraordinary length of what renowned fashion illustrator Joe Eula called "the most gorgeous neck in the world." She was also a member of writer Truman Capote's elite colony of society "swans." Comparing Agnelli to that other rare bird, Babe Paley, he said with characteristic tartness, "If they were both in Tiffany's window, Marella would be more expensive."
Tall and lithe, with classical features, Agnelli was one of the BP's (beautiful people) often found in Diana Vreeland's aristo-chic Vogue. Henry Clarke caught her in situ on Gianni's yacht off the Côte d'Azur in 1962 and at the Agnelli family seat in Turin. Admitted to the International Best Dressed List in 1963, she eventually became a Hall of Fame member.
Agnelli was not entirely defined by her marriage and wardrobe, however. She studied art in Paris, assisted photographer Erwin Blumenthal in New York, contributed photos to Vogue, and in the seventies, developed a line of textiles with Gustav Zumsteg's company, Abraham, which became favorites of society decorator Sister Parish. Her most recent project was the 2002 grand opening of the Renzo Piano-designed Giovanni and Marella Agnelli Art Gallery, part of a wider project to ready the unflashy Northern Italian city for its Olympics close-up.