The subject of this biography, Lionello Arturo Lopes Perera, was born in Venice in 1871 of Jewish and Venetian background. His father, a commercial agent from Livorno, died when Perera was 11; ever after, he, the only son, felt responsible for the welfare of his five sisters. His close relatives knew that his commercial success would depend on his education, and so he was sent to one of the few business schools in Europe, the Regia Scuola Superiore di Commercio (founded 1868) in the palazzo Ca’ Foscari. Later the Regia Scuola was incorporated into what would become the University of Venice Ca’ Foscari, which chose as its seat and took its name from the famous palazzo on the Grand Canal.

In 1894, he suddenly left Italy to work for his maternal uncle, Salvatore Cantoni, who owned a bank in New York. A brilliant, mysterious figure, Cantoni had fled Venice in...

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