Picks and Pans Review: Profile

updated 02/19/1996 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/19/1996 01:00AM

>OF BRUSHSTROKES AND BODICES

WHEN A WOMAN DOESN'T WANT TO show much leg or balks at wearing something low cut, "I start to sweat," admits Giuseppe Dangelico Daeni. The perspiration, however, is not prurient but professional. Daeni, 56, known as Pino, is the premier cover artist for romance novels. But without a good photograph to paint from, his is a tough job. Pino thus spends lots of time at photographers' studios "pushing and squeezing" male and female models together and exhorting them in heavily accented Italian to pump up the sensuality.

"There are so many ways to paint a clinch; I like to give readers a feeling they're seeing a different image with each book," says Pino, who has produced some 1,700 covers during the past 13 years, among them Danielle Steel's Palomino and Kathleen Woodiwiss's Come Love a Stranger, for an average fee of $5,000. He also lays claim to popularizing fellow Neapolitan Fabio.

A self-taught artist, Pino grew up in Bari, a seaside town in southern Italy, and illustrated textbooks and romance magazines in Milan before heading to America in 1979. Today he's too busy to read all the books that he illustrates; instead he relies on a synopsis of the story furnished by clients like Topaz and Bantam before getting to work. "An art director might say, 'Pino, we need a mansion.' We talk about the period, the mood. I try to put myself in the male's shoes. It's very easy for me. I'm good because I'm a romantic," adds Pino, the father of two grown children, who lives with his wife-assistant Chiara, 47, in Cresskill, N.J.

And how does Chiara feel about his work? "She doesn't get jealous. I'm very square," insists Pino. "I don't give her the opportunity to be jealous."

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