Lucamaleonte’s images are as though filtered through a magnifying glass that brings to light those details of the whole which he considers most important. And so it is with this mural.

In this piece we can see how he uses his propensity for the black and white graphic style of old-time engraving, enlarging the lines typical of ancient chalcographic technique – usually very delicate due to their use in printing  presses – until they are as huge as these urban walls, so as to isolate and magnify the small detail of the Baroque painting which was used as its inspiration.

These tied hands are in fact a detail of  “The Martyrdom of the saints Rufina and Secunda”, a 1625 oil painting also known as the “Picture of the three hands” because it was painted by three different artists: Giovanni Battista Crespi (known as il Cerano), Francesco Mazzucchelli (known as il Morazzone) and Giulio Cesare Procaccini.

It is a detail which tells the story of the martyrdom of the two Christian sisters who, according to hagiographic tradition, took place in this area of ​​Rome in 257 AD.

Under the death sentence issued by the prefect Junius Donatus on behalf of the emperor Publius Licinius Valerianus – whose reign took up again the anti-Christian persecution which had fallen off in previous years due to emergencies such as military anarchy, barbarian invasions and the plague – the two sisters were first tortured to force them to abjure their faith and then killed. Secunda was beheaded and Rufina beaten to death.

The legend tells that the Roman matron Plautilla had a dream of the place where they were buried and found their bodies, and that a cathedral, which was destroyed in the Middle Ages, was dedicated to them in the spot. Their bodies were then transferred to the Lateran Baptistery in San Giovanni.

At the bottom of the piece, we see an even more extreme version of the extreme synthesis that Lucamaleonte has carried out in the main image: the boxwood leaves become totally graphic, like metaphorical rays emanating from the bound hands of Rufina at the centre of the mural. Rays that – like an expanded crown of thorns – go on to invade the whole wall.

The box is the plant that gives its name to this area of Rome – Boccea.

Painting it as the only background, the artist underlines that this martyrdom, this brutal crime, happened right here, where we passive observers now find ourselves.

Luca seems to evoke the famous words of singer-songwriter Fabrizio De Andrè, “even if you believe you are absolved you are forever involved,” while bringing to light through this icon-image, an event from the history of Christianity – whether fact or legend – that led to the area, once known as “Silva Nigra”, being renamed “Selva Candida”.

Work in progress


“The Forest of  White and Black”

Let’s start with the name: Boccea derives from the word bosso or box, those shrubs which have always been used for our hedges, and the fragrance of the box leads us towards the sylvan soul hidden in the depths of this area on the outskirts of Rome, up to the area of Selva Candida, where once, in the thick forest which was then called Selva Nera, the sisters Rufina and Secunda and, half a century later, the saints Marcellinus and Peter, were martyred in 257 AD and 304 AD respectively.

The death of this small group of early Christians produced a radical change both in the name and in the deeper ‘meaning’ of the area, which was later consecrated to light by order of Pope Julius I (pope from 337 AD). A religious light, obviously, but one which nonetheless allows us to narrate the lights and shadows of the Eternal City’s delicate passage from Paganism to Christianity.

As though in some kind of Roman Tao, black and white tell the story of the transformation of Selva Nera – the black forest – into Selva Candida – the forest of light – and are also the symbol of a crucial evolution of Roman civilization, the spark that would transform the Rome of the Caesars into the ‘City of God’ and capital of Christianity.

Finally, it is interesting to note that there are 15 streets in the Selva Candida area which are named after as many martyrs of the anti-fascist Resistance, meaning that the memory of the many female fighters who died for freedom is not lost.



Lucamaleonte was born in Rome in 1983, where he lives and works. A graduate of the Central Institute for Restoration, he has been active in the field of stencil art since 2001, when his first work began to appear around Rome: experiments which allowed him to develop a highly personal style in the space of just a few years, realising elaborate masks on multiple levels and creating images with a photorealistic style of rendering. Over the last few years he has grown increasingly interested in freehand drawing and is unlikely to return to the techniques of cutting and masks.

Keeping one eye on the past has allowed the Roman artist to develop a contemporary language without neglecting the importance of art history. An unusual direction which explains the name he has chosen for himself: like the chameleon he has the ability to adapt to the environment in which he works and at the same time to disappear into it without being invasive. The symbol he uses to sign his drawings is an icosahedron. Regular, but with many facets.

He has exhibited in Italy and abroad and was one of three Italian artists invited to exhibit at the Cans festival in London, an event organized by Banksy, the most famous street artist in the world.