Camilla Falsini

Life and Death

The Appian Way – the road of tombs and mausoleums, as well as of the celebration of life offered to mankind by the fields along its sides – is not far from this wall which was painted for GRAArt by the artist Camilla Falsini. During the construction of the mural, some local people pointed out to us an ancient sepulchre a few meters from the wall which was discovered decades before on private land during construction work on a building.

The artist therefore chose as the ideal symbol that of the bucranium – the skulls of animals, mainly of oxen, which were featured as decorative elements in mausoleums and sacrificial altars – to replace in this piece the knights or fantastic creatures typical of her fairy-tale imaginings.

These four huge characters with bone heads present themselves to the observer as two opposing factions which are contending the three colourful flowers Falsini has painted in the middle of the wall

They are like two armies: the army of Maxentius, whose villa is not far from here, and the army of Constantine, which seem to be facing one another over the conquest of the imperial insignia, which Maxentius buried before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312 AD, and which were only found again in 2005, on the slopes of the Palatine hill.

As well as referencing the sacrifice of Maxentius and thus the victory of a new Rome which would mark the end of paganism and become Christian, the tears of blood which emerge from the bucrania, forming a red sea at the base of the mural, are a clear reference  to the blood of the oxen which was once  spread across these fields as a pagan fertility blessing.

The bucranium is therefore here to observe us and offer us a warning: to remind us of Rome’s periodic need for renewal.

Work in progress


“Regina Viarum”

The Appian way, the most beloved consular road of antiquity, needs no introduction, which means we are free to delve into the lesser-known details of some of its most important places. The Tomb of Caecilia Metella, for example, is a symbol not only of Ancient Rome but also of the middle ages. It is linked to the Caetani family who received the ruins from Pope Boniface VIII. At this point, the monument was transformed into Castrum Caetani, or the Tenuta di Capo di Bove or ‘Ox Head Estate’, a name that refers to the original decorations of the tomb, the bucrania. In fact, the ox skull festooned with flowers was a recurring motif in many sacred places and especially for sacrificial altars, symbolising as it did the sense of rebirth inherent in ritual death (the bones of a living being flanked by elements of nature). And is the story of Rome and its monuments not one of continuous resurrections?

The theme of change connects us to the basalt paving of the road leading up to the Villa of Maxentius, also on the Appia.

This time, though, we enter the emperor’s territory to hear the reasons that led to his defeat against Constantine during the battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312, and discover that for Maxentius the imperium could exist only to protect the most ancient traditions of the city – those which had brought Rome to become Caput Mundi by virtue of its divinities, its civil religion and its laws.

With Constantine approaching, therefore, Maxentius prepared to fight, knowing that what was at stake was the very idea of ​​Rome itself. Before the battle, he concealed the imperial insignia, which were the symbol not only of his authority but also of the essence of an entire civilization, and which the emperor knew were in danger in the face of the demands made by Constantine and the legions loyal to him. These insignia, later discovered in an underground chamber on the Palatine hill, are now preserved in the collection of the National Roman Museum in Palazzo Massimo alle Terme.

Upon the metaphorical sacrificial bucranium which we have chosen as the icon of this journey, the blood of the defeated emperor was, in essence, shed, as he sacrificed himself to protect a dream which was born in 753 B.C. and which, in the course of a battle on the Tiber, many centuries later, became something else again.


Camilla Falsini

Camilla Falsini was born in Rome, where she lives and works as a painter and illustrator, collaborating with various projects, companies and agencies. Her studio work, often realized on wood, has been exhibited in galleries and museums including the MADRE Museum in Naples, the Auditorium and MACRO Museum in Rome and at the Fifty24MX Gallery in Mexico.

Her work has appeared in Juxtapoz magazine, the Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper, Pictoplasma and other Italian and international books and magazines. In addition to murals and paintings, she loves to sculpt and to assemble old pieces of wood into sculptures.

Her works are populated with beings which, though enigmatic and meditative, are never dramatic. Whether they are brightly coloured or monochromatic, her creatures – though often metaphors and symbolising moods or events – never take themselves too seriously.