Nicoletta Ceccoli’s paintings are the visual counterparts of fairy tales and nursery rhymes: Beautiful, whimsical, and wondrous stories set in a world where things are more dangerous and gruesome than they initially seem.

When we are young children, the only parts of fairy tales we notice are the princes, princesses, magical creatures, and incredible adventures. But, once we grew up, we became aware that those tales revolve around horrific events that were precipitated by vicious people who were obsessed about harming the protagonists who – usually – never did anything to invite such brutality.

Likewise, when we look at Nicoletta’s paintings, the first things we notice are the innocent doll-like protagonists and delicate color palette. But, when we take a closer look at the things that are surrounding the protagonists and the things that are happening to them, we realize that the paintings have darker and more menacing undertones.

Her fragile and doll-like Queen of Hearts, for example, is standing on top of a crumbling house of cards, surrounded by oversized insects, while a group of hostile soldiers are attacking her kingdom. She’s trapped in place, fully aware that the house of cards is about to collapse.

the beautiful and bizarre world of nicoletta ceccoli - whimsical surrealistic painting
It took me a while to notice that this protagonist is also trapped in place while a snake is about to strangle or devour her. But when I finally saw it, I realized that what I initially took as graceful serenity is actually a sense of helplessness and despondency that comes with the realization that things are heading towards an inevitable end.


These darker narratives, however, do not take away the beauty of the paintings. Instead, the additional layers of meaning augment the captivating qualities of those paintings.

According to the artist herself, many of her personal works explore the themes of childhood innocence, the loss of innocence, and transition into adulthood. Often, she injects those personal works with a sense of mischievous sensuality.

And, many of her protagonist sensually – yet unconsciously – allure the other characters in her visual tales.

Most of her characters find this transition confusing and somewhat terrifying. Even so, they know that sooner or later they will have to say goodbye to their childhood.


To me, Nicoletta’s paintings look a lot like frozen animated films that are paused at the exact moment when something irreversible is about to happen.


Perhaps, her degree in Animation from The Institute of Art in Urbino contributes to her ability to present such suspenseful tales through her paintings and illustrations.

the beautiful and bizarre world of nicoletta ceccoli - whimsical surrealistic painting
To some, animation might seem like a rather unusual course of study for someone who decided – at the age of 14, during her school trip to the International Book Fair in Bologna – to become a storybook illustrator. (So far, she’d illustrated more than 30 storybooks for major publishing houses in Italy, UK, and USA). But, illustrating storybooks is also a form of storytelling. And, when we put all the illustrations inside of a storybook in sequential order, it looks very much like an animation film’s storyboard.
Recently, she worked with Stéphane Berla and Mathias Malzieu to create a Luc Besson produced animated feature film called “Jack et la Mécanique due Coeur” (The Boy with a Cuckoo-Clock Heart)

And, currently, she is designing an artist series candy tins for Hint Mint and preparing for another exhibition at AFA NYC which will open in November 2014.

the beautiful and bizarre world of nicoletta ceccoli - whimsical surrealistic painting

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12 Responses

  1. Little one jones

    That third one from the end -the one with the birds growing from the girl’s hair is actually by an American guy, joe soren.

    Reply
    • Miu Vermillion

      Hi Little one jones,

      Thanks for bringing this issue up (-:

      I did a triple check. The painting you mentioned (the third one from the bottom) is listed in Nicoletta Ceccoli’s website as one of her works. But just to be safe, I visited Joe Sorren’s site. But, I didn’t see that painting in his portfolio. Then just to make sure, I searched “Joe Sorren Crows” and saw that very same image on Pinterest.

      My guess is, someone put a wrong credit on the painting when s/he pinned the image on his/her Pinterest board. And when other people re-pin the image, the wrong information spreads.

      It’s something I – and many other people – weren’t aware of. But, now, I believe, we can clarify this matter with everyone else. So, thanks again!

      Wishing you an awesome weekend (-:

      Reply
  2. little one jones

    Thanks so much for replying. It’s definitely a joe soren, it’s uncanny, but the reason I am certain is that I am the proud owner of a joe soren print and asked him a few years ago if indeed he had a print run of that very piece. Sadly, he did not, but it is for this reason I am without doubt assuring you, if you need it :), that it is one of joe’s.

    Reply
  3. little one jones

    Also, if you visit joe’s website, you’ll see the through-line of similarity in the female figures as with the one in that painting. As a point of contrast, nicoletta’s figures are much more reminiscent of mark ryden’s work.

    Reply
  4. Will Lever

    There is little doubt as to the authenticity of the piece in question as being one of Nicoletta’s wonderful creations. I’ve been aware of this particular painting for at least several years. If one were to give even the most cursory inspection of Nicoletta’s other paintings, one would immediately recognize her style, as well as the striking similarities shared with many of her other pieces. Her style is quite unique and so distinct as to be unmistakable.

    Reply

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