Marguerite Caetani

Marguerite Gilbert Caetani, Princess of Bassiano, Duchess of Sermoneta (née Chapin) (24 June 1880 – 17 December 1963),[1] was an American-born publisher, journalist, art collector, and patron of the arts. She married an Italian aristocrat and became the founder and director of the literary journals Commerce (fr) (in France) and Botteghe Oscure (in Italy).

Marguerite Caetani
Marguerite Caetani 1.jpg
Marguerite Gilbert Chapin

(1880-06-24)24 June 1880
Died17 December 1963(1963-12-17) (aged 83)
TitlePrincess of Bassiano
Spouse(s)Roffredo Caetani [it]
Parent(s)Lelia Gilbert Chapin
Lindley Hoffman Chapin
RelativesCornelia Chapin (half-sister)
Schuyler Chapin (nephew)

Early lifeEdit

A daughter of Lelia (née Gilbert) Chapin (1857–1885) and Lindley Hoffman Chapin (1854–1896), Marguerite was born on 24 June 1880 in Waterville, Connecticut into a wealthy and cultured New England family.[2] After her mother's death in 1885, her father remarried to Cornelia Garrison Van Auken in 1888, with whom he had Cornelia Van Auken Chapin, a sculptor, Katherine Garrison Chapin (a poet who was the wife of the U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle),[3] and Lindley Hoffman Paul Chapin (father of Schuyler Chapin, the General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera).[4]

A direct descendant of Puritan settler Deacon Samuel Chapin, her paternal grandfather was Abel Chapin, a son of U.S. Representative Chester W. Chapin, president of the Boston and Albany Railroad.[2] Her maternal grandparents were Frederic E. Gibert and Margaret E. (née Reynolds) Gibert.[5]

Orphaned by her parents at a young age, she went to Paris in 1902 to study singing with the tenor Jean de Reszke.


The Palazzo Mattei Caetani, on via Botteghe Oscure in Rome
Her husband, Prince Roffredo Caetani

In Paris, the Caetanis frequented the artistic and literary world and were friends with Paul Valéry, Saint-John Perse, Valery Larbaud, Leon-Paul Fargue, and Adrienne Monnier. In 1924 Marguerite Caetani founded the literary journal Commerce, which was published until 1932. With articles in three languages (French, Italian and English), Commerce published poets and writers already famous (such as James Joyce), but also younger artists, allowing them to make their works known.

In 1932, the Caetanis returned to Italy and settled in the castle of Sermoneta. After the Second World War, and the death of her son Camillo in December 1940, the family settled in the Roman residence of Palazzo Mattei Caetani in Via delle Botteghe Oscure [it].

In 1948, Marguerite Caetani founded a new journal, Botteghe Oscure, partly similar to Commerce, but now in five languages: English, French, Italian , German and Spanish. With the help of Giorgio Bassani, Botteghe Oscure published some of the most important works of poetry and prose of the time. In 1950 Princess Caetani published an anthology in English of the writers who had contributed to the journal: An Anthology of New Italian Writers (printed in Rome, but distributed by New Directions). Botteghe Oscure ceased publishing in 1960, due to financial difficulties, thereafter retiring to Ninfa.[6]

Personal lifeEdit

Rosa roxburghii

In 1911, she met, and married, the composer Roffredo Caetani [it] (1871-1961), Prince of Bassiano and last Duke of Sermoneta.[7][8] The couple settled in the villa Romaine in Versailles, and had two children:[1]

Princess Caetani died at Ninfa on 17 December 1963.[1]

Garden of NinfaEdit

Marguerite Chapin, was also a garden enthusiast, introduced many hundreds of plants to the Garden of Ninfa, most of which were bought from English Nurseries. From 1949-1990 Hillier & Sons was the main supplier for the Caetanis. At her first visit to the nursery, Marguerite ordered 128 rose cultivars.[12] Plantings have continued and there are now some 200 roses at Ninfa. Many of these are unusual, such as the double pink form of Rosa roxburghii (1825)—which is called the 'Chestnut Rose', Rosa Crépuscule with fabulous scented coppery flowers.[13][14]


  1. ^ a b c "Marguerite Caetani Dead at 83; Literary Editor Was a Duchess". The New York Times. 19 December 1963. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  2. ^ a b "A Marriage in St. Ann's.; Miss Ellila Maria Gibert Wedded to Mr. Lindley Hoffman Chapin". The New York Times. 1 December 1878. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  3. ^ "FIVE BETROTHALS TOLD IN ONE DAY; Miss Katherine Chapin to Wed F.B. Biddle; Miss Amo Sessions, Lieut. Banks. ALKER-ORVIS ENGAGEMENT Troths of Miss Dorothy Hollister and Lieut. Horn; Miss Phyllis Williams and Lieut. Crenshaw". The New York Times. 15 December 1917. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  4. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. (7 March 2009). "Schuyler Chapin, Champion of Arts in New York, Dies at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  5. ^ Index to Marriages and Deaths in the New York Herald: 1835-1855. Genealogical Publishing Com. 1987. ISBN 978-0-8063-1184-5. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  6. ^ Dennett, Laurie (2016). American Princess: The Remarkable Life of Marguerite Chapin Caetani. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. p. 328. ISBN 978-0-7735-9993-2. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  7. ^ TIMES, Special Cable to THE NEW YORK (31 October 1911). "MISS M.G. CHAPIN WEDS ITALIAN PRINCE; Daughter of Late Lindley Chapin of New York Married to Di Bassiano in London". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  8. ^ "PRINCE CAETANI; Brother-in-Law of the Former Margaret Chapin Dies". The New York Times. 28 May 1941. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  9. ^ "Lelia Caetani 1935 Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski) French". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  10. ^ "Howard of Penrith, Baron (UK, 1930)". Heraldic Media Limited. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  11. ^ Times, Telephone To the New York (7 January 1941). "ITALIAN PRINCE IS KILLED; Camillo of Bassiano Dies in Action on Albanian Front". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  12. ^ Randall, Frederika (16 June 2002). "DAY TRIP; A Secret Garden". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  13. ^ Ramsay, Alex; Attlee, Helena (1989). Italian Gardens: A Visitor's Guide. McCarta. p. 191. ISBN 978-1-85365-182-3. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  14. ^ Britain), Royal Horticultural Society (Great (2004). The Garden. New Perspectives Publishing Limited. p. 481. Retrieved 30 June 2020.