The painting in Rome's Via del Collegio Capranica shows the leaders of Italy's two biggest populist parties – Salvini of the nationalist League and Di Maio of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement – kissing in front of a large red heart, a few hundred metres from the parliament buildings where newly elected legislators will hold their first session on Friday.
Another mural on Via Damasco in the south of Rome shows a smiling Giorgia Meloni, leader of the anti-immigration Brothers of Italy and one of Salvini's allies, hugging a dark-skinned child and sporting a badge saying “Refugees welcome”.
The works have been claimed by Italian street artist Tvboy, who posted pictures of them to his Instagram account in the early hours of Friday with the caption: “Is it an imaginary kiss or one that's possible? Is it a kiss of welcome or farewell? Tomorrow the members of the Senate and the Chamber [of Deputies] vote and perhaps we'll find out…”
By Friday morning he'd posted another picture – of a carabinieri police officer pacing in front of the mural, which had been hidden with a tower of cardboard boxes.
“Work censured… The shortest kiss in history,” he wrote.
His work is reminiscent of the UK artist Banksy – who famously painted two policemen kissing – as well as the iconic Fraternal Kiss on the Berlin Wall, a work by Russian artist Dmitri Vrubel showing the leaders of the Soviet Union and East Germany sharing a tender moment.
Tvboy's latest effort coincides with the first session of Italy's new elected parliament, which begins the process of electing speakers to the upper and lower houses on Friday. With parliament hung and the parties fiercely divided over possible coalitions, it's unlikely to end in any embraces.
Di Maio and Salvini, whose parties made the biggest gains in the election, are competing not just over who should lead the houses but the entire government. Bitterly opposed during the campaign, they have since expressed willingness to work with other parties – including each others' – but remain profoundly divided over policy.
An official “green zone” has been in place in Rome since Thursday night, banning any possible protests in the city centre to coincide with parliament's first day.
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP