The Guardians of Octavia

“The Guardians of Octavia” is the first mural created by the Colectivo Licuado in Rome. This anonymous and grey piece of the Grande Raccordo Anulare‘s wall has now become a symbolic entrance to a part of Rome that is closely linked with the theme of stolen childhood.

It was in fact the power of Florencia and Camilo’s sensibilities in depicting childhood in their work – I am thinking above all of their recent murals in Poland and in New Delhi – which was decisive in their being chosen.

Another element which played an important part in bringing them to this wall was their graphic style. The Colectivo Licuado is heir to the South American tradition of muralism which was addressed to all and was therefore made simple to understand, and this seemed to me an ideal reference for artwork related to the theme of childhood. The pictorial movement born during the Mexican Revolution of the first decade of the 20th century, which resurrected the wall art intended to bring art to the masses by depicting their history and redeeming them from anonymity and misery, might in fact be defined as the childhood of Street Art, if we accept that graffiti writing represents its turbulent, indecipherable and rebellious adolescence.

We took Florencia and Camilo to visit the nearby Hypogeum of the Ottavi, the tomb of little Octavia Paolina, and explained to them that the area is also home to the Casal del Marmo juvenile prison. They were struck by the image on the fresco of the arcosolium of the god Mercury/Hermes, protector of travellers who accompanies children to the afterlife, freezing them in an eternal childhood.

Paulina, on the left of the mural, and her father Felix, on the right, are now the guardians of this passage.

The Hypogeum of the Ottavi can be visited upon request (to book a visit, contact Daniela Rossi at the local office: 06 47788415). The fresco that inspired the work of the Colectivo Licuado has now been moved to the National Roman Museum at the Baths of Diocletian in Piazza della Repubblica in Rome, but this piece of GRAArt wall art metaphorically restores the symbol to the local area and to those who live there, who are its legitimate guardians.

David Diavù Vecchiato

Work in progress


“Sweetest children”

The large area extending around and beyond the more famous Via Trionfale is nowadays better known for the Juvenile Detention Centre and the many local neighbourhoods rather than for its ancient history. In the district called Ottavia, though, the presence of the underground tomb of the local family of Octavius Felix could help establish a new relationship between area’s past and present.

The underground burial of this family dates back to the III century A.D. and it follows the ancient tradition whereby wealthy romans built their mausoleums outside the city walls. Though constructed for painful reasons, these are beautiful places which are often decorated with poetic paintings and sculptures. Many of the museums in the historic centre of Rome display these heartbreaking symbols of family love: they are the remains of ancient emotions which have survived intact for more than two thousand years, and which are still incredibly powerful. Octavius Felix, the patriarch and creator of this tomb, had every detail very clear in his mind, and had even planned when each member of his family was supposed to enter it. But the premature death of his six-year-old daughter Octavia Paulina altered his plans.

The little girl’s sarcophagus was, in fact, the very first burial in the underground mausoleum. The first pictorial decoration of the tomb, both on part of the walls of the building and on the sarcophagus itself, was also dedicated to Octavia. Shaken by the pain of his loss, Octavius Felix ordered the artists to depict a fairytale world where happy children play and run happily in an immense garden full of roses. Felix hoped that in these Elysian fields, his daughter would find herself in good company and wouldn’t feel too lonely.

A powerful bond links the roses of Octavius Felix for his ‘sweetest’ Paulina (the adjective comes straight from the third century) to the suburban neighbourhoods and the Juvenile Detention Centre: the area’s past and present share the common theme of children who feel so far away that they are almost lost and yet who are immensely loved. An idea which at the same time forces us to reflect and comforts us, art being as able to heal and console in the third millennium as it was in the third century.


Colectivo Licuado

The Colectivo Licuado (Uruguay) is composed of Fitz or Florencia (whose real name is Firenze Duran, from Montevideo) and T.H.E.I.C. (an acronym for “the end is near”, real name Camilo Nuñez, from Buenos Aires), two 24-year-old artists who decided to bring their works of art to the urban space in Montevideo, the city where they both live. Colectivo Licuado are active both in street art and in gallery exhibitions, as well as in the field of advertising. Their pictorial style is inspired by Renaissance painting and the Pre-Raphaelites like Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Viennese secessionist painters such as Klimt and Mucha’s Art Noveau. Their mural “The Guardians of Octavia” for GRAArt is their first piece of street art in Rome.