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Report: GenAmi in Evian

By Micheline Gutmann

Translation by David Presburger-Hauser


View of Evian from the lake (Wikipedia)

The shuttle Evian-Lausanne (Wikipedia)

The family VITTA

Our members most probably remember GenAmi issue #64 which cover was a picture of the inside of the beautiful Piedmontese synagogue of Casale Montferrato.

In this issue, was told the story of the Vitta Family originating from this small town, focusing on Baron Jonas Vitta and his son Joseph Raphaël Vitta , who were great collectors and patrons in Lyons and Paris. Also the story of Fanny Foa née Vitta, a remarkable and generous woman whose memory persists in Evian where she lived.

This research was carried out following a request by William Saadé, historian and « conservateur du patrimoine » (curator of the Heritage) in Lyons, asked to set up an exhibition in Evian about the treasures that had been purchased by the barons Vitta then dispersed among several museums.

The study was fascinating as we encountered Emilio Vita, a member of the Assembly of Notables and the Grand Sanhedrin convened by Napoleon in 1806 and 1807, and his descendants, quite outstanding for their great culture and generosity.


The Joseph Vitta exhibition

The exhibition was indeed set up and the opening took place on Saturday, February 15th, 2014 at the Palais Lumière in Evian. All regional personalities attended, of course, and William Saadé introduced all participants in the project : heads of museums holding works offered by Joseph Vitta, i.e. the Rodin Museum and the Museum of Nice, all those who helped search works of art scattered among various institutions, including three passionate students... and for the family study, GenAmi.



Michel Goldschmidt photos: Palais Lumière exterior, Interior

Photos from Michel Goldschmidt: William SAADE, the guests

Micheline Gutmann was accompanied by Michel Goldschmidt, whose family is related to the Vittas by the Oppenheimers, and Pascal Ramadier (and spouses). We were warmly welcomed.

We very seldom participate in conventions, which are very expensive (preparations, travel, hotels, booths...) for the very few new memberships gained. Such short trips are another way to make ourselves known. (Our members who wish to represent GenAmi in a local congress or genealogical event are welcome to do so, their expenses will be reimbursed).

We will not describe everything that can be seen in this incredible exhibit, with a beautiful design and setting. We will let William Saadé speak on March 9th following the GenAmi annual members meeting. We also recommend the wonderful album published on this occasion.


La Sapinière

The property consists of a large villa located on the shores of Lake Geneva, surrounded by gardens and, nowadays, training workshops for people with disabilities.

The piece of land was acquired by Jonas Vitta in 1890 and the plans for the villa barely drawn when he passed away in 1892. His wife Hélène inherited it but his son Joseph Raphaël build and decorated it, even though it belonged to his sister Fanny Foa later on.

Joseph was a collector with eclectic and certainly conservative taste whose fortune seemed to have no limits. Sometime later, he distributed numerous works of art to various museums in France but also to Casale Montferrato. He died in 1942.

Fanny Vitta, widow in 1901 of the explorer Jean Foa after only a two year marriage, having lost her son Jean in 1946, donated La Sapinière to a charity currently focusing on education and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities.

Photos from Michel Goldschmidt : views of La Sapinière