My father, Philip Marraccini, was the first born of Italian immigrant parents, Salvatore and Anna Marraccini on March 7, 1917 at 323 E. 15 Street, New York City. He was given drawing lessons by his doting, little Sicilian Grandmother at an early age when she observed him making chalk designs on the sidewalk in front of the family store (with home on top) in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, N.Y., where they had moved from Manhattan. His Grandmother was a warm, wonderful and patient woman who encouraged her precious Grandson to draw, but sagely always admonished him to become a surgeon, never an artist!
Before entering kindergarten his parents gave him a small artist’s oil paint set, instead of toys. Already an observer of nature, the first subject painted was a sparrow family that had nested in the eaves of their home. This was the child artist’s first attempt at oil painting.
There was a closet full of books which had aroused the hypersensitive child’s interest. His maternal Grandfather gave him informal instruction on many subjects, literature was included, naturally Gustave Dore’s illustrations for Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy intrigued him most, but let me give you my father’s own description of his reactions to this, which is placed at the bottom of his pen and ink version, a drawing of Dante’s Inferno.
Imagine a precocious pre-school child. It’s a rainy day! Nothing to do but rummage through the closet, leafing through hundreds of books it stored. My favorite was Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. I would open to the tome to receive a jolt from what I saw, slam the book with a bang and run out of the closet into daylight. After a pause in the protective light I would go to my Grandfather’s room where I would blurt out what I had seen. He would look at me and allay my fears by trying to explain what it was all about. He understandingly pared his explanation to my mental capacity. The blockbuster came when I opened to the Dore illustration showing a man feasting on another’s brain. It was almost a heart stopper! This time it took much longer to go to my Grandfather. From time to time what I had seen came back to life. When I was sixteen and studying the fine arts I drew this composite of impressions still vivid in my mind. Here is the picture! Date: 1932.
While in the early days of Public School his mother sent three of his works to The John Wanamaker Department Store Citywide Art Competition and to the family’s delight he was awarded three medals, two first and a third, on for each drawing submitted. While still in elementary school, he went to Pratt Institute’s Saturday morning classes, thence to the Leonardo da Vinci Art School in Manhattan. In his Senior High School days his paintings were entered in a Citywide High School Copetition and won him a scholarship along with only four other talented students to The Prestigious Art Students’ League in New Your City. The first teacher here was Yasuo Kuniyoshi, renoun Japanese artist. In the meantime he was granted a partime scholarship with Stuyvesant Van Veen, who it may be said is a disciple of Pieter Bruegel.
One of Philip Marraccine’s large oil paintings measuring 66” by 124” complete with frame was delivered via B.M.T. subway to the School for Social Research, exhibited there to receive good reviews. This was gratification and ample reward for the problems incurred in transporting the huge painting which depicted a lynching scene.
These were difficult economic times. There was only a limited market for aspiring young artists’ work. Only six artists were known to be making a living at their glamorous calling, many were working under W.P.A. auspices. With this grim picture clearly painted, the young artist finally found employment as an embroidery designer. An eight dollar a week job was highly competitive, a much sought after position. Imagine there was a line of job seekers that went around the block. The next difficult climb up the economic ladder was establishing a silk screen novelty business which was a moderate success.
While this was going on, there was a stint at part-time Radio Announcing and he even did an Italian Radio Program. My father also acted in the Italian Theater to perfect his Italian and kept on painting but on a frustrating part time asis. The family moved to Miami and my father finally went into his hobby as a business, Raising Tropical Fish.
Philip Marraccini speaks Italian, Sicilian and French. He learned Spanish by listening to Cuban Radio and T.V. Listening to Spanish did not make him forget his Italian and French. He now occasionally works as a professional interpreter. My father and mother belong to The Dante Alighieri Society and they devote much of their time to writing and producing “II Giornalino Della Dante”, which was conceived by him to bring Italo-Americans closer tighter. His fondest dream is to make it the voice of Italian-American Culture of South Florida. The Giornalino was an instant success, may it prove jost as acceptable on a full scale basis. He drew and donated the offical Earthquake Fund Raising Art Print for U.N.I.C.O. National. (The original was shown to Maria Pia Fanfani, the Italian President’s wife, who liked it so much that she offered to buy it.) The original drawing took 3 fine tip flair pens to complete. It went to the printers and then was snet to Maria Pia, Gratis.
President, Michael Anthony Darany of Coral Gables UNICO Chapter was instrumental in showing the fund Raising Print to U.N.I.C.O. National President, Renato R. Biribin, who is making it available to all the 140 U.N.I.C.O. Chapters nationwide. It has been declared the official Earthquake Fund Raising Art Print which is to be given to those that contribute!
Philip Marraccini wrote and spot announced for the Dante, a special message to collect funds for the Earthquake Victims through the munificense of Maimi Radio Station W.G.B.S.
Besides belonging to the Dante Alighieri Society he and my mother Mary, belong to the Miami Tropical Rose Club and the Alexander Von Humboldt Society.
As a whosesale Tropical Fish Raiser, Philip Marraccini wrote and published The Ichthyophile which was distributed to hobbyists nationally and overseas. This publication has a moralistic overtone also designed to draw people together. This work was reviewed by Helen Simkatis of Aquarium Magazine, who called its author a moralist dedicated to improving mankinds’ lot.
Recently my father designed a giant congratulatory scroll, 50” x 120” for President Ronald Reagan and Vice-President George Bush which collected 2,000 signatures of well wishers on it and was sent to Washington, D.C. by the Miami Florida Republican Party. It was ornately beautifully, completed with the U.S. Seal, all of it in vivid colors.
The Marraccini Family has patronized Arabian Horse Shows in which my sister, Filippa has actively participated.
In attempt to understand the Prickly Pear’s idiosyncrasies (why it refuses to grow in Miami) he planted 5 acres as an experiment. He delivered a Lecdture on the Prickly Pear to The Rare Fruit Council which was highly acclaimed by a large audience at the Miami Museum of Science.
Married to Mary, a non-Italian, for 42 years, she is truly devoted wife and mother of Filippa their daughter-my-sister and son Philip Jr. all of who are his best and constant boosters. All of us are subjected to listening to the rough drafts of his original works and I have become the official typist of IL Giornalino as well as his recently completed novel, “Leonardo Lives”. I proudly submit his historic novel about Leonardo da Vinci which he completed after duplicating the Mona Lisa in order to understand the “Portrait” thoroughly in attempt to quash some of Leonardo’s unsympathetic critics.