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Relationships Match: This gallery owner tried to sell an artist his own painting, then they fell in love

Marco and Emilia.

Photographer: Mauro Abballe/Handout

Who: Emilia Ianeva 50, owner of Berenson Fine Art. Marco Sassone, 76, painter.

Relationship status: Together since 2003.

Location: Toronto.

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The art of the introduction

Marco: Our meeting was a big thing for me. I had been single for 25 years at that time.

Emilia: I don’t think exactly single – lots of women. I was working at an art gallery in San Francisco and Marco was one of the artists we represented. I had always loved his work, but we had never met.

Marco: We had spoken on the phone before. I was invited to attend a show that she had curated. I would say I was interested in the art and the woman.

Emilia: It was opening night. It was packed. The exhibit was Francis Bacon, but in one of the side rooms one of Marco’s paintings was on display. And there was this man looking at it. I said, "This is a Marco Sassone. If you have any questions, let me know.” Of course I had no idea.

Marco: She tried to sell me my own painting!

An inspiring partnership

Emilia: Two years later, we got married in front of that same painting in San Francisco. For a while, we went back and forth between there and Toronto and Italy, but I missed the east, so we had to choose.

Marco: It’s not that we had to choose. She chose. I chose her.

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Emilia: I opened my gallery in Toronto in 2011. That had been my dream for a long time and Marco was very supportive. I wouldn’t say he gets any special treatment. He is very organized, which is not the norm with artists. I learned a lot from how he manages his own career.

Marco: And I am always inspired by her – as my wife and also as an image of beauty. An artist takes notes, so I have been studying her beauty for a long time.

Loving like locals

Marco: We travel a lot and we both love to travel in the same way – not just to visit a place, but to rent an apartment and really live there. A few years ago, my wife fell in love with Venice, so we’ve been there a lot.

Emilia: I had a couple of very tough years with my health, and for some reason visiting Venice really re-established my connection not just to travel but to life. Something about that city really talks to me: East and West, water and land, sunshine and beauty.

Marco: And it’s very romantic.

Emilia: Yes, very romantic. Of course that’s what an Italian would say.

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Match profiles an interesting couple each week. Interested in being featured? Share your story at match@globeandmail.com.

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