The story of how the great fortune of Count Alessandro and Countess Vittoria Contini Bonacossi was formed and grew; how they started from scratch as stamp collectors and, in a very short time, joined the world's leading antique art markets.
Works of art purchased by the Contini family formed a collection of paintings, sculptures and countless masterpieces of applied arts which, by 1939, had become one of the largest in the world. After WWII, the lives of the Contini Bonacossi couple became intertwined with those of their nephew, Sandrino Contini Bonacossi and his wife, actress-cum-writer Elsa de Giorgi. The relationship between Sandrino and Elsa began with a passionate love affair and ended with the start of a liaison between de Giorgi and Italo Calvino. When the affair entered the public domain, Sandrino decided to leave Italy, never to return. This prompted a scandal surrounding his disappearance, for a long time wrongly attributed by the media not to Elsa’s betrayal but to inexistent illegal operations of various kinds on the part of Alessandro (who had, in the meantime, become Count and then Senator) and Sandrino Contini Bonacossi, his secretary. The book also gives the true account of a donation made by the heirs of Alessandro Contini Bonacossi to the Italian State, and more specifically to the galleries of Florence, of part of their immense collection of artworks. It also describes the criminal court cases that ensued, instigated without foundation by Elsa de Giorgi and all subsequently declared groundless. Even today, when we speak of the Contini Bonacossi collection, we do not mention a donation but that it was “acquired by the Italian State”, showing no gratitude or respect for the donors responsible for the largest donation of artworks to the Italian state in the 20th century.