Representing Sveva and her family’s departure from Italy, Harbour with Sphinxes embodies connection to a homeland and the elusive riddle-like nature of making decisions and the unknown changes that follow them. Ofelia, the artist’s mother, is seen staying behind while her partner and daughter leave the shores of Italy for new lands. Sveva felt that her mother never psychologically left Italy behind and, because of this, could not adapt to life in small-town Canada.
The plentiful sphinxes in this work present a sense of the overwhelming nature of choice and change. The grand sphinx laying guard over the harbour represents Italy with its towers crowning her head and her attention focused away from those leaving her lands.
Sveva and Leone then begin their journey to Purgatory on their own river Styx guided by the Boatman who is a symbol for “the passing-by of all things.”