Eve Steccati

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So far Eve Steccati has created 10 blog entries.

La Storia d’Italia…Part III

By |June 22nd, 2010|Uncategorized|

Un ’Po di Tutto...A Little of EverythingWelcome to the final installment of my 3-part blog on the history of Italy as seen through my pictorial map. In my two earlier posts I covered the prominent art themes of my illustration, namely architecture an...

La Storia d’Italia…Part III

By |June 22nd, 2010|Uncategorized|


Un ’Po di Tutto...
A Little of Everything

Welcome to the final installment of my 3-part blog on the history of Italy as seen through my pictorial map. In my two earlier posts I covered the prominent art themes of my illustration, namely architecture and mosaics. The remaining subjects are a mix of elements that serve to highlight the rich artistic history of the peninsula. 


Let's begin in Florence and take a look at the the beautiful fiorino d'oro, the gold Florentine coin in use from 13th to 16th centuries. The Florin features an image of the fleur de lis, the symbol of Florence and certainly an important icon of France and England as well. This delicately designed disk of gold was the dominant trade coin throughout western Europe at the time, securing Florence's position as the hub of commerce with great financial clout. Established by Julius Caesar, Florence, meaning 'flowering' or 'in bloom' was well named. A center for art and design during the Middle Ages and Renaissance as well as a living museum today, Florence continues to flourish as a city with deeply historic cultural and artistic roots.

While we're in the neighborhood, I'd like to talk about the decorative patterns that are shown in my map of Italy. The four corner elements and central rosette are based on a fabric pattern that appears in a Renaissance painting by Bronzino titled Portrait of Eleonora of Toledo and Her Son. Created in Florence in 1545, Eleonora is depicted wearing an elaborate gown with an intricate design. Based on the image of a pomegranate and symbolizing abundance, this pattern and others like it appear in the historic textiles of several European countries.


Originating in the Middle East, the pomegranate motif is a stylized and symmetrical design. Here it is surrounded by vines, tendrils and fleur de lis, perfectly suited to adorn the attire of a woman who was a great influence on Florentine society during her life. As the wife of Cosimo de' Medici, Eleonora was a leading patron of artists and instrumental in charitable endeavors as well. The pomegranate design lives on today, most notably appearing on fabric created by Mariano Fortuny, the master artist, fashion and textile designer of early 20th century Venice. Recently, the Philadelphia Museum of Art paid homage to the pomegranate pattern with their exhibit titled "An Enduring Motif: The Pomegranate in Textiles".

Heading northwest to Milano, we enter the Palazzo Brera to discover a curious bronze sculpture in the middle of the central courtyard. Standing almost twelve feet high, plus its ample base, the monumental figure, titled "Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker" stands tall indeed, an over-the-top heroic figure of god-like stature. Striding forward with commanding purpose, the image of Napoleon is not without a certain humor. The original sculpture, in white marble, was created by Antonio Canova and now resides in England. Apparently, Napoleon did not think highly of the nude representation of himself and forbade it to be shown in public during his lifetime. This bronze copy in Milano was cast in 1811. What appeals to me is Napoleon's outstretched arm which cradles a gilded winged Nike perched atop a golden globe. So reminiscent of Hollywood award statuettes today. And the winner is...

Moving southward toward the western coast of central Italy we arrive at the ancient town of Tarquinia. An important region during Etruscan times, the tombs of Tarquinia are filled with lively frescoes depicting dancers, musicians, and all manner of flora and fauna. In the Tomb of the Leopards a flutist playing two pipes moves among the revelers, the folds of his colorful robe billowing out as he walks past.

Not much is known of the Etruscans. Possibly they arrived from Asia Minor, but their culture developed in central Italy around 800 B.C. Talented bronze and gold artisans, many Etruscan works of metal art were eventually melted down by the increasingly powerful Romans leaving terracotta sculptures and tomb frescoes as the main surviving links to this mysterious civilization.

L'ARTE DI VINO...THE ART OF WINE
In the three postings about my illustrated map of Italy we've covered a fair amount of art-related topics: from architecture and mosaics to sculpture, textile design and fresco. And then there is the artistry of wine.

The Italian peninsula is one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world. Early on, the Greeks made wine in Sicily, and the Etruscans cultivated vineyards in central Italy. Later, in the 2nd century B.C., the Romans advanced the art and culture of wine making by developing barrels for storage and creating glass bottles specifically designed to hold wine. The use of trellises and improvements to the Greek wine press can also be attributed to them.

But of course, after all the hard work it takes to create the wine, it all comes down to the simple pleasures of enjoying it, and the art of fine wine continues even after the bottle is opened. From bistecca alla Fiorentina to gnocchi al pesto, there is a tremendous array of fine Italian wines to complement any dish. Most wine drinkers are familiar with the well known Italian grapes such as Barolo, Barbera and Pinot Grigio. However there are hundreds of Italian varieties including the spicy Negroamaro from Puglia and the rare Sagrantino from Umbria. I have a small painted plate that was given to my parents by our relatives in Udine. Written on the plate, in the Friulian dialect of the region, is a toast "Viva il vin e la compagnie"...meaning "Here's to the wine and the company". Indeed.

LETTERS FROM HOME
My grandfather, Edoardo Steccati, enjoyed collecting stamps. An immigrant from northern Italy in the early 1900s, Edoardo corresponded throughout his life in the United States with family who remained in Italy. Whenever a relative vacationed in foreign country, they would send Edoardo postcards from their travels as well.

He kept his collection in an old wooden box from Italy. Shaped to look like a book with a spine, its cover is decorated with an incised design illustrating a peasant couple wearing traditional Italian clothing. The inside is filled with small identical matchboxes, and each carries a handwritten label in my grandfather's script: Bavaria, Union of South Africa, Italia, 25 little matchboxes in all, each filled with old canceled postage. The stamps that resonate with me are those from Italy that were created after WWII.

The 1948 airmail stamp showing the bell tower of Trieste really speaks to Italy's effort to rebuild the country which had experienced such intense destruction and hardship during the war. Issued by the Free Territory of Trieste, it features a teal green background with symbolic leaves and fruit of the olive tree in the foreground as a white plane rises over the city.

The Sibilla Eritrea stamp from 1961 is part of a set of Michelangelo-themed stamps, although this 30 Lire postage is the only one of the series in Edoardo's collection. Printed in a deep purple and depicting an image from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, this beautiful engraving reveals Italy's own appreciation of its wealth of great art and its willingness to use history as inspiration in the modern world.

As I continue to create new illustrated maps I look forward to sharing them with you. Arrivederci.

La Storia d’Italia…Part II

By |May 22nd, 2010|Uncategorized|

I Mosaici...Mapping The Mosaics of ItalyAs we travel through my map of Italian art history, the intricate mosaics shown in the illustration are examples of this enduring art form found throughout the country. Strikingly beautiful, mosaics can certainly...

La Storia d’Italia…Part II

By |May 22nd, 2010|Uncategorized|


I Mosaici...Mapping The Mosaics of Italy


As we travel through my map of
Italian art history, the intricate mosaics shown in the illustration are examples of this enduring art form found throughout the country. Strikingly beautiful, mosaics can certainly tell us much about Italy's history as well.

Along the northeast co
ast of the peninsula lies Ravenna, home to one of the most storied treasures of ancient mosaics in the world. Beautifully preserved and richly colored, these intricate masterpieces can be found in several sites including San Vitale, Galla Placidia Mausoleum, San Apollinare Nuovo and San Apollinare in Classe.

Constructed in the 6th century,
the octagonal San Vitale retains a solid almost severe exterior, belying the glorious art it holds. Looking up at the golden halo mosaic surrounding the depiction of Emperor Justinian I felt the power of this great work of art. The ruler of the Byzantine Empire and conquerer of Ravenna stands before us with his eternally unblinking stare, a commanding presence in the stillness of the ancient basilica. On the opposing wall, a mosaic of Justinian's wife, Empress Theodora, gazes across the centuries toward her husband. The portraits of the royals, crowned with jewels and pearls, make it easy to imagine the pomp and ceremony surrounding their regal court.


Heading south, we arrive in Rome at Santa Costanza, originally built by Emperor Constantine in 350 AD as a mausoleum for his daughter. Unpretentious on its exterior, the interior is filled with delicately designed mosaics giving the space an airy, ethereal atmosphere. What strikes me about these mosaics is that they employ a pale background; the images retain a very crisp and defined appearance. Here, the vault and walls are covered with ornate swirls of olive branches, grape vines, fruit, floral and geometric motifs. Objects float, as if suspended in space: painted urns, bowls, doves, peacocks, mortar & pestle
and other depictions of domestic life - each item lends its distinctive shape to become part of the whole design.

Herculane
um, known as Ercolano in Italy, lies on the southwest coastline of the boot, just southeast of Naples. Frequently overshadowed by the fame of nearby Pompei, the ruins of Herculaneum are an archeological treasure on their own. Of all the mosaics in Italy, these pieces truly celebrate daily life by elevating the mundane while offering a glimpse of how some Romans lived in the first century AD.

Herculaneum mosaics display a variety of subjects including domestic animals and a dining room depiction of food scraps seemingly tossed onto the floor. My favorite piece is the floor of the women’s bath house that depicts an octopus, lobsters and dolphins all surrounding a majestic Triton of the sea. I'm guessing that the sheer exuberance of the tentacles and dolphin tails created a memorable impression upon all who entered this space many centuries ago just as it still does today. The violent eruption of nearby Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79 covered the city and its inhabitants in mud flows and volcanic ash, abruptly destroying the town yet preserving it for future archeological discovery. It would be another sixteen centuries before the first rudimentary excavations of Herculaneum began.

The Villa Romana del Casale, located on the island of Sicily, is the site of the richest collection of late Roman mosaics. Arguably the most famous mosaic of the villa, my illustration depicts a group of female athletes competing in various sports. Wearing their chic two-piece athletic gear, this mosaic is often referred to as "The Bikini Girls". Here, wi
nners of the sporting contests are crowned with flowers and bestowed with palm fronds. Created during the late 3rd century and the early 4th century AD, the remains of this once luxurious villa are home to a tremendous quantity of beautifully preserved mosaics including boar hunting scenes, whimsical designs (think cherubs fishing from a boat) and geometric patterns.

To view the full illustration, see Part I of my Italian History Map blog dated 4/29/10. I'll be posting the third and final installment of my blog dedicated to this map soon. Until then, I wish you "Arrivederci".

A Personal Map of Italy

By |April 29th, 2010|Uncategorized|

La Storia d'Italia...The History of Italy, Part ITo some, that might seem like an overblown title for a little pictorial map. I mean, just how much history can one illustrate on a map the size of a letterhead. Certainly I cannot claim to show the entir...

A Personal Map of Italy

By |April 29th, 2010|Uncategorized|

La Storia d'Italia...The History of Italy, Part ITo some, that might seem like an overblown title for a little pictorial map. I mean, just how much history can one illustrate on a map the size of a letterhead. Certainly I cannot claim to show the entir...

Flavors of Jamaica

By |May 8th, 2009|Uncategorized|

We're off to enjoy the balmy weather and laid-back lifestyle of sunny Jamaica. Created for a luxury resort near Montego Bay, my client wanted an illustrated map that reflected the rich and colorful nature of this verdant Caribbean island nation. Highli...

Flavors of Jamaica

By |May 8th, 2009|Uncategorized|

We're off to enjoy the balmy weather and laid-back lifestyle of sunny Jamaica. Created for a luxury resort near Montego Bay, my client wanted an illustrated map that reflected the rich and colorful nature of this verdant Caribbean island nation. Highlights of Jamaica were to be incorporated into the illustration, some of them well known tourist sites, others perhaps a little more off the beaten path.

Flying into Jamaica
, my map indicates the two main airports. In the southern part of the island, Norman Manley International is located in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica. Sangster International is in Montego Bay to the north. Sangster is also home to the IAM Private Jet Centre, just in case any of you jet-setters care to zip on over in your Gulfstream for the weekend.

Now Jamaica is a fairly large island in the West Indies, tucked just below Cuba and to the left of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. For the sake of the blog, let's pretend that we're landing at Montego Bay, which is the airport closest to the resort. But there is just so much to see and do in Jamaica, I suggest that we take a leisurely tour around the island first. Don't worry, there will be lots of opportunities to relax and enjoy ourselves and who knows, maybe even take a side trip or two.

Heading southwest from the airport, our first stop is bound to be truly refreshing, although some might feel a distinct pang of white-knuckled fear. We’re going to experience, first hand, the thrills and chills of cliff diving. It’s time to don your swimsuit. Perhaps not as dramatic as the famous cliff diving area of Acapulco, the rocky cliffs of Negril still offer an opportunity to shout "banzai", or maybe just let out a blood-curdling scream of fear, as we hurl ourselves with abandon into the swirling turquoise waters below. Personally, this is where I draw the line. Where’s my stunt double?

Ok, I don't know about you, but after that riveting experience, I’m thirsty. Let's head up the Black River. It’s time for a little side trip. My plan is to kick back for a while and enjoy a sip or two of that world-famous Jamaican rum. Ahhh, the historic Appleton Estate...now we’re talking. Rum has been made here since 1749, and these folks definitely have the recipe for turning sugar into a little taste of heaven. We can take a tour of the distillery, view the shimmering fields of sugar cane waving gently in the soft breeze, and then sample the wares. Smooth.

Now as much as I could linger here a while, we’d best get back to our vicarious tour. Heading southeast we travel through a few of Jamaica’s 14 parishes. The very British sounding Saint Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, Saint Catherin
e and Saint Andrew hint at a time in Jamaica’s history as a former British colony. North of Alligator Pond (love that name) is Mandeville Golf Club which is the oldest golf course in the Caribbean.

Heading past May Pen and Spanish Town, once the capital, we arrive in Kingston, the current capital. With the rugged Blue Mountains as a backdrop, this is Jamaica’s cosmopolitan center of government and commerce and home to many reggae stars as well. Protecting the natural harbor, a long strip of land known as the Palisadoes connects the Norman Manley International Airport with Kingston.

Getting hungry? Me, too. As we round the southeastern tip of Jamaica and head up the coast, we come to Boston Bay at Port Antonio, home of Jamaica’s world renowned Boston Jerk. The enticing aromas of spices, herbs, chilies and grilling meats are calling my name. Let’s eat.

Now it’s time for another little side trip. Besides, all that jerk has made me thirsty again. This time we’re heading inland, up into the beautiful, and aptly named, Blue Mountains that run through the the southeastern part of the island. Right about now, I’m craving a steaming cup of java, and the island’s famous Blue Mountain coffee is just around the next bend. Yes, caffeine rules.

Traveling back to the coast we turn westward. All you movie buffs, listen up. Just past Port Maria lies Oracabessa, home to Golden Eye, and the birthplace of Mr. Suave himself, Bond...James Bond.

The time for some wet and wild fun has arrived, and I am so ready to get out and stretch my legs. Put your swimsuit on again, as we’re off to Dunn’s River Falls, just west of Ocho Rios, where thousands of waterfalls cascade over terraced rock formations. Gushing down from the mountains, the water tumbles and splashes through this series of rocky plateaus, forming quiet pools before reaching the next tier of boulders on its journey to the sea. On with our water shoes and off we go as we climb ever higher through the maze of waterfalls, lush ferns and tropical forest. Exhilarating.

Inland from Dunn’s River lies a tiny town named Nine Mile. This rural mountain village is famous as the birthplace of reggae king Bob Marley. It’s a long and winding road to get to this destination, so I think we'll save it for a later journey. My favorite tidbit about this hamlet is that it was named Nine Mile because it is located approximately one mile from another town named Eight Mile.

Well, we are
nearing our final destination, but I’ve got one more special treat planned for you. And I promise, it’s definitely worth the trip. Traveling westward along the gorgeous coastline we now head inland following the Martha Brae River. Hey Man, it’s time to chill. Take a seat next to me as we journey down the peaceful Martha Brae on our own personal bamboo raft. Our guide uses a pole to steer the craft as we lazily drift along. Lining the banks of the river are palm trees, fruit trees and flowers. Birds glide above us. There must be a million colors of green here. So placid. So serene. Look, there’s a Doctor Bird, the hummingbird that is Jamaica’s national bird.

As we near Montego Bay, the last leg of our coastal tour takes us past renowned golf courses including White Witch and Cinnamon Hill. Rose Hall, the supposedly haunted historic Great House with an infamous past deserves a vi
sit as well, but we’ll save that for another time. We’ve arrived at Half Moon Resort, an idyllic retreat where we can soak up all the beauty and luxury that Jamaica has to offer. Personally, I’m ready to hit the beach and lounge in the shade of a nearby palm tree. Time for some serious relaxation with a good book and maybe another taste of Jamaica’s finest rum.

It has been a pleasure having yo
u along for the journey as we have sipped and dined and splashed and reggae-d our way around Jamaica. Come with me next time as we travel the world through my pictorial maps. Until then, I’ll leave you with a recipe for a delicious rum martini, the perfect beachside cocktail:

JAMAICAN RUM MARTINI

Ingredients:
2.5 ounces Jamaican Rum
0.5 ounces Dry Vermouth

Directions:
Fill a shaker half full with ice cubes. Pour rum and vermouth into shaker and shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with either a twist of lemon or an almond-stuffed olive. Enjoy!

Who Says We’re Not in Kansas Anymore?

By |March 12th, 2009|Uncategorized|

Come with me as we journey through the Great Plains of Kansas. Too boring, you say. Too flat. Well, as a pictorial map illustrator I love a challenge. And here, the directive was clear: make this a fun and entertaining visual representation with broad ...

Who Says We’re Not in Kansas Anymore?

By |March 12th, 2009|Uncategorized|

Come with me as we journey through the Great Plains of Kansas. Too boring, you say. Too flat. Well, as a pictorial map illustrator I love a challenge. And here, the directive was clear: make this a fun and entertaining visual representation with broad ...