Articles by: M. G.

  • Lorenzo Mattotti is one of the most loved and acclaimed Italian illustrators. In 2004, he created illustrations for "Eros", a movie directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, Steven Soderbergh and Wong Kar-wai.

    Cover Revolutions! Illustrators and the New Face of Italian Publishing

    A revolution is taking place on Italian bookstores shelves: more and more often illustrators are being asked to use their color palettes and distinctive marks to update publishers’ visual identities or redefne an author’s image. A handful of internationally acclaimed Italian illustrators, known for their original and powerful work, are to be thanked for this revolutionary change. 

    Perusing a bookstore has long been one of my favorite ways to spend time. Although I consider myself passionate about illustration and graphic design, until a few years ago when I entered a regular bookstore in Italy my attention was immediately drawn to the selection of titles made by the bookseller. Lately, however, as I weave in and out of the literature and non-fiction sections, I’ve noticed the way I look at books has changed and that my attention is ever more stimulated by the book-object iself. Italian publishers deserve credit for this change, which have, for a decade now, started opening up to renovation while safeguarding their visual identities and recognizable book series layouts.

    Thanks also to the contributions of talented art directors and to the stimulation created by the birth of new, competitive publishers, book covers have begun to see more researched typography, redesigned logos, and the more and more frequent substitution of the once omnipresent photography with ad hoc illustrations. This change of pace has made a significant contribution work, talent and tenacity of a generation of illustrators who have been active since the end of 1970s, among whom are Franco Matticchio, Lorenzo Mattotti, and Guido Scarabottolo.

    This exhibition and book aim to bare witness to this propitious moment in Italian illustration; the idea was born from observing this phenomenon and the need to give space to a group of internationally acclaimed Italian illustrators who are distinguished for their original style and for the validity of their publishing projects. We wanted to document experiences such as that of Scarabottolo, who for ten years was art director of Guanda, that of Gianluigi Toccafondo, who for many years helped shape Fandango’s aesthetics, and that of illustrators like Franco Matticchio, Lorenzo Mattotti, Emiliano Ponzi, and Olimpia Zagnoli, who skillfully bring new life to how authors’ works are perceived, characterizing them with their own color palettes and visual repertoires.

    To complete this reconnaissance, we wanted to hear the voices of other prominent figures in this renovation by asking two art directors, Cristiano Guerri of Feltrinelli and Riccardo Falcinelli of Minimum fax, to tell us about their own relationship with illustration. Finally, we made use of the expertise of Stefano Salis, journalist with a specific interest in publishing and graphic design, to take us through the evolution of this phenomenon.

  • Events: Reports

    5 Different Creches to Visit in NY this Christmas

    The nativity scene, in Italian called presepe, represents the scene of the birth of Jesus Christ and is one of the main traditional Christmas decorations in Italy.

    The tradition of putting nativity sculptures in church dates back to the Middle Ages, even though before this period there were images and representations of the birth of Jesus. It was Saint Francis of Assisi, though, who popularized the image of the crib and thereby started the tradition of the presepe.

    In almost every church and in many homes in Italy there is a presepe. It is usually prepared on December 8, the day of the feast of the Immaculate Conception and is displayed for about one month.

    We suggest 5 different creches to visit this Christmas season in NYC.

    A creche by Maestro Artese

    From December 8th through January 6th you can see the beautiful Nativity scene from MaestroFranco Artese inspired by the landscape of Basilicata, Matera in particular. That city, known to the world for its stones, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a European Capital of Culture in 2019, provides the extraordinary backdrop of the scene of the birth of Jesus.

    The backdrop is the ancient farming civilization of Basilicata, the “civilization of hands,” which
    revolved around fieldwork and ancient crafts. Through hard labor and frugal living, these people developed a spirit of sacrifice and a strong religious sensibility.

    It is the representation of a world tied to the values of family, work and solidarity. And a conception of life open to mystery.

    The Nativity is made of polystyrene covered in a resin plaster with a “tuff” effect, as well as metal, wood and terracotta. It is about 20 square meters and 3.5 meters high. The 70 or so figures, each about 27cm high, were made completely with terracotta by Maestro Vincenzo Velardita.

    Their dress is inspired by local tradition and made by talented sisters Nadia and Daniela Balestrieri and Teresa Galasso. Everything was done under the supervision of Maestro Artese.

    ‘Presepio Della Solidarietà'

    In December 2001, an 18th century style, handcrafted, 120-piece, 16 feet wide, 7 feet tall and 5 feet deep gift arrived from the Naples Chamber of Commerce to the NYC Fire Department.

    "We are very proud to be the custodians of this extraordinary and symbolic ‘Presepio Della Solidarietà' which we proudly display every year for the public to enjoy," announced Gina Biancardi, the Founder and President of Casa Belvedere.

    “The exhibit is particularly meaningful to Staten Islanders who tragically lost many FDNY and other civil servants on 9/11/01. I know many 9/11 victims' family members who come every year simply to pay homage to their loved ones as they get very tearful viewing the beautiful display," said Ms. Biancardi.

    This handcrafted work of art was created by master artisans of the Campania Region of Italy and is consistent with techniques that date back to the seventeenth century. It is comprised of 120 handmade pieces including peasants to noblemen, the Holy Family, many animals typical of that time period, angels, a faux mountain, a stable and more. However, it is not just recreating a stable scene of Christ's Birth. It is magnificently unique in that it tells the story of the 9/11/01 tragedy in a heartfelt and meaningful way.

    The Italian Cultural Foundation at Casa Belvedere
    79 Howard Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10301
T. 718-273-7660
F. 718-273-0020

    Presepe: Nativity of Mercy. La Scarabattola

    In Little Italy a Neapolitan Nativity scene will be on display. Called the “Nativity of Mercy” project, it was commissioned by Monsignor Donald Sakano, pastor of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral on Mulberry Street, to celebrate the “Jubilee of Mercy” called for by Pope Francis and beginning on December 8th.

    The figures were made by the artisans of “La Scarabattola” in Naples and are inspired by Caravaggio’s Seven Works of Mercy, the famous painting commissioned by the Pio Monte della Misericordia Foundation of Naples in 1605. The Nativity Scene will be on display at the Church of the Most Precious Blood (entrance on Baxter Street), the National Shrine of San Gennaro, where Msgr. Sakano is also pastor.

    Annual Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Metropolitan Museum of Art
    1000 Fifth Avenue
    New York, New York

    The Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a long-established yuletide tradition in New York. The brightly lit, twenty-foot blue spruce—with a collection of eighteenth-century Neapolitan angels and cherubs among its boughs and groups of realistic crèche figures flanking the Nativity scene at its base—once again delight holiday visitors in the Museum's Medieval Sculpture Hall. Set in front of the eighteenth-century Spanish choir screen from the Cathedral of Valladolid, with recorded Christmas music in the background, the installation reflects the spirit of the holiday season. The exhibit of the crèche is made possible by gifts to The Christmas Tree Fund and the Loretta Hines Howard Fund.

    A Dyker Heights Nativity

    Dyker Heights resident John Miniero spends weeks building and setting up a traditional n nativity for Chirstmas each year, a 14-foot Neapolitan-style nativity scene populated with hundreds of tiny figurines.  Miniero’s home sports the typical Christmas lights as others resident in Dyker Heights but but he leaves those decorations to his wife.
    His house has become one of the stops on the now popular Dyker Heights Christmas Lights bus tours

  • Events: Reports

    “Ready, Set...Action!” Shoot with CONI USA

    CONI USA, the Italian National Olympic Committee in the USA, is launching the Third Photo & Video Contest for Italian youth, age 6 through 15 for: a) best digital photo, and b) best 1 minute digital video clip.

    Participation is open to all kids who have at least one parent who is an Italian citizen with residency in the USA or who have at least one out of four great-grandparents who is or was an Italian citizen.  The competition opened on Sunday, November 6, the day of the New York City Marathon.

    Entries must be submitted by midnight, Monday, November 28. Semifinalists are notified Thursday, December 1. Application forms are found on, starting Monday, November 7. The content of the photo or video must represent an "action movement" photographed during a sport or game event, professional or amateur, as a self portrait, or with one or more friends and/or family members. Any kind of active movement qualifies as content, but it must be treated "creatively" to have a greater appreciation by the judges of the contest.

    Only cameras with a market value of less than $ 500 may be used. Entries created with mobile phones do qualify. It is mandatory to describe on the registration form what kind of camera was used, the date and place where the photo or video was taken and the location. Any space or opportunity for adequate sport activity of game play can be used: a backyard barbecue, a birthday party, the school gym, an athletic field, a public park, a swimming pool, a local marathon...

    Parents or legal guardians of participating kids must agree in writing to the use of pictures or video by Coni USA (as indicated in the registration form). No registration will be accepted without compliance with this rule and other rules. A jury of media professionals will select 5 semifinalists for each age group who will be notified on December 1. Medals will be awarded to First, Second and Third place in each age group. All semifinalists will be given a Certificate of Participation. Those in attendance will also be given an official Coni USA cap and a shirt with a Coni USA logo on it.

    The Awards Ceremony will be held in New York City, on Thursday, December 15, starting at 5:00 pm, at the Consulate General of Italy, 690 Park Avenue, New York, NY. It will take place at the annual "Christmas Action Party" during which all participants, photo and video contest semifinalists and other kids who are only attending the Party, will compete-for-fun in some “action” game (rope jumping, “golfino” putting, ring and bean bag tossing, birilli, hula hoop...)

    The “Ready, set...action!” Awards Ceremony and the “Christmas Action Party” are held under the Auspices of Minister Natalia Quintavalle, Consul General of Italy in New York with the generous support and assistance of la Scuola d’Italia Guglielmo Marconi, The Institute for the Italian American Experience, la Coni USA Alumni, Families and Friends Association, America Oggi newspaper, i-Italy web magazine and other organizations (list in formation...)

    The semifinalists of the contest "Ready, Set...Action!" that are 11 to 13 years old in 2012 are automatically entered in the finals of the national tryouts organized by Coni USA next spring to select the team in track & field and swimming that will travel to Italy in June to participate (international travel, local room and board expenses paid for by Coni USA) to the "Olympics of the Province of Salerno" (Region of Campania) that will take place in the historic town of Paestum.