Presented here for your perusal are scans of photos of the original signed artwork painted by Stephen Marchesi to adorn the covers of the 1978 Paperback Edition (commonly known as the "Marchesi Covers"). Of the twelve pieces he created, nine of them reside in my personal Three Investigators collection. (UPDATE - #2 "Stuttering Parrot" was sold in July, 2012, #11 "Talking Skull" was sold in March, 2018.) In the summer of 2001, I sent a letter to Stephen Marchesi to find out more about the artist and his experience with The Three Investigators. Please click HERE to read the interview.
Eight of these paintings were obtained in the summer of 1999. A series book collector/dealer had originally purchased all twelve of the paintings directly from Stephen Marchesi. In the Spring of 1999, this dealer placed the Marchesi art for "Moaning Cave" up for bid on eBay on-line auctions followed shortly thereafter by "Flaming Footprints". In June of 1999, the artwork for "Fiery Eye" went up for bid. This was one of my favorite Three Investigators paperback covers remembered from my youth. It was difficult to contain my excitement and I contacted the dealer to learn more about the piece.
After winning the auction and receiving the painting, a copy of the book was laid next to the artwork and literally scoured with a microscope to further ensure authenticity. There was no doubt about it and I really gained an even deeper appreciation for the work of Stephen Marchesi. There are so many very fine lines and minute details in his work that easily go un-noticed on the printed covers of the books. As is common, the printing process rarely does justice to orignal artwork. One detail that I questioned upon initial examination of the original "Fiery Eye" artwork was a blob of white paint smeared into a circle right on the Eye itself just to the upper-left of Pete's head. This was how Marchesi gave the shiny reflection to the jewel. Under the lens of the camera, the effect is stunning and realistic - just look at the cover of the book. He utilised this effect with excellent results on several of the other paintings as well including the crystal ball on "Talking Skull" and the knife on "Stuttering Parrot".
Knowing that the owners also possessed several other Marchesi Three Investigators cover art paintings that they wished to sell, a deal was worked out. Unfortunately, "Screaming Clock" was not available as it too had been sold earlier and the owners were not interested in selling "Terror Castle" as it was number one in the series and they wanted to frame and hang it with their collection of juvenile series book art. Happy to receive the additional seven paintings, I resolved to one day acquire "Terror Castle". Over the course of a year each of the eight pieces were framed for hanging. Matte colors were chosen that matched the backgroung color that appeared on the paperback books. For example, the art on "Laughing Shadow" is matted in black, "Silver Spider" in green, etc.
Between the summer of 1999 and July of 2000, the owners of "Terror Castle" were e-mailed a couple of times to keep them aware of my continued interest in obtaining the piece. In early August of 2000, literally moments after having received the last of the eight pieces from the framing shop, I checked my e-mail and there was a message from the owners! It was one of those rare moments of absolute coincidence in life that defies belief. They never did get around to framing the artwork and felt it was time to let it go. You can view a picture of it unframed, below. This is how they all appeared before framing. Attempts were made to scan some of the paintings before framing them but they were slightly larger than my scanner and the results were less than pleasing. The scans below are of photos taken of the framed artwork. Thus, the images are not nearly as sharp as the real thing and you'll notice some shadows and color distortion.
According to Stephen Marchesi, each of the pieces was painted in water color (Dr. Martin's Dyes) with acrylic highlights on a standard piece of art board measuring about 17" X 12". Each piece is signed in the lower left corner and on the back. Some of them have the title of the book penned on the back as well but this cannot be seen now that they are framed. One can see where Marchesi drew the over-sized rectangular dimensions of the book on to the board and then filled the lower two-thirds of that space with the artwork. The upper one-third was where the publisher would place the title of the book and Marchesi left this space blank. Someone in the Random House art department designed the titles and chose an appropriate color to border the artwork on the books.