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Ileana Sonnabend

ILEANA SONNABEND’S obituary appeared in the New York Times of October 24, 2007. I read it with an equanimity that took me by surprise, having assumed that, after decades of quasi-Oedipal affection, I would be laid low by the news—hardly unexpected—of her death at the age of ninety-two. Instead I found myself rehearsing the picaresque details of her life and nonpareil career: Born to one of Romania’s wealthiest families on October 28, 1914, Ileana Schapira married Leo Castelli, scion of a Triestino banking family, when she was eighteen. Always feeling bested by her sister Eve—whom the propinquitous Leo had first courted—Ileana and her new husband quit Bucharest for Paris, where Leo and a friend, the interior designer René Drouin, established a gallery, in 1939, on the Place Vendôme. Fashionably Surrealist, the enterprise was ill-timed, opening just a few months before

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