Two works one story: the masterpieces of Alberto Martini and the Story of Wally Toscanini

Alberto Martini, Ritratto di Wally Toscanini, collezione privata

Have you ever heard of a love so overwhelming that it defied the social conventions of its time, immortalized through art?
There are two portraits, executed by Alberto Martini, that tell an “impossible” and deeply touching love story: that between Wally Toscanini, the rebellious daughter of the famous conductor Arturo Toscanini, and Count Emanuele di Castelbarco, a man of high nobility and already married.

These masterpieces not only represent the visual essence of a forbidden bond but also reveal a social and cultural context in which love tries to prevail over every obstacle.
In this post, I take you on a tour of a tormented love story through the works of Alberto Martini, highlighting how art and passion can intertwine in an unforgettable tale.

Alberto Martini and the Story of Wally Toscanini

Alberto Martini, Ritratto del conte Emanuele Castelbarco Pindemonte Rezzonico, collezione privata

Alberto Martini, with his mastery, presents us with two portraits that tell of a scandalous and fascinating love affair in the eyes of the time. This story begins with Wally Toscanini and Count Emanuele di Castelbarco, whose lives intertwine in a love at first sight that is immediately opposed by their families and society and because of age differences.


Despite adversity, Wally’s determination plays a crucial role.
In 1931, Emanuele separated from his wife and, with the help of Gabriele D’Annunzio, adopted Hungarian nationality to marry Wally, demonstrating an exceptional determination and modernity of thought that defies the conventions of the time.
Their story becomes a symbol of emancipation and forbidden love, evidenced in Martini’s works. Then again, these portraits are the result of an era when everything was changing, when Art Dèco, Dadaism and the works of, for example, Tamara del Lepicka were changing history.

Wally’s portrait, made in 1925, emerges as a symbol of beauty and power. Martini portrays her in a yellow ball gown, lying on an elegant sofa, surrounded by luxury and sophistication, as if she were a goddess of beauty.
Similarly, Emanuele’s portrait reflects elegance and noble values, with the count immersed in his books and passions, in a pastel that captures his charming presence.

These masterpieces, exhibited together only on rare occasions, return to tell their story after nearly four decades, offering a unique glimpse into the love, art and culture of the time.
Their last joint exhibition is in Treviso (2023-2024) and comes after many decades, as the works had been seen together between 1985 and 1986. These two portraits allow us to rediscover the magic and charm of this couple through the eyes of Alberto Martini.


In addition to her love story, Wally Toscanini emerges as an outstanding figure for her character, determination, and commitment to various social and cultural causes, demonstrating how her life was more than just a romantic tale.
Her legacy, as well as the artistic legacy of Alberto Martini, continues to influence and inspire, reminding us of the importance of living with passion, love and laughter.

Wally was not only a rebellious and beautiful girl, but a woman against the tide.
She put her life and her social connections at the service of many causes, from the Resistance, to Nomadelfia, to social work, to fundraising for the revival and operation of La Scala Theater.
It would be Wally herself who would declare the three imperatives she had imposed on herself since she was a girl: live, love and laugh. She then explained with the following sentence the meaning of her existence.

“From life I have had everything, and without merit, I have only tried to live generously. I have tried to understand, I have suffered, I have loved, and I have given”.

Through the art of Alberto Martini, the story of Wally and Emanuele di Castelbarco offers us a valuable window on 20th-century Italy, demonstrating how love can transcend social and temporal barriers, leaving an indelible mark on the history of art and culture.

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2 thoughts on “Two works one story: the masterpieces of Alberto Martini and the Story of Wally Toscanini

  1. Che storia romantica! L’esempio di come la tenacia e la costanza di un amore vero, profondo, hanno la meglio su tutti gli ostacoli e a dispetto di tutti i commenti dei maligni e degli invidiosi …

    • È davvero così. In questo caso un grande amore si è unito all’arte e possiamo ricordare questo sentimento fortissimo anche grazie a due capolavori.

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