In a mural discovered on Friday morning on the Via de' Lucchesi in Rome, a few hundred metres from the Quirinale presidential palace where the heads of Italy's main parties had gathered hours before for talks that ended with little sign of a solution to the deadlock created by last month's election.
The work, signed by "Sirante", shows three party leaders – Luigi Di Maio of the Five Star Movement, Matteo Salvini of the League and Silvio Berlusconi of Forza Italia – in place of the three figures painted by Caravaggio in I Bari (The Cardsharps), the master's depiction of double-crossing in action.
The Cardsharps by Caravaggio
In Sirante's version, Berlusconi, who risks being sidelined from the rightwing coalition led by Salvini, is the player being tricked, as Di Maio hides an extra card behind his back and Salvini peeks at his supposed ally's hand.
"An elderly 'ingenue' is playing cards with one of his rivals, who in conspiracy with an adversary is rigging the game of politics," said an artist's note next to the mural. "This scene, theatrical, descriptive and realistic, contains a moral warning, a condemnation of corruption and in particular political strategy."
Carabinieri confiscate Sirante's art work. Photo: Fanny Carrier/AFP
It's an imaginative take on the wrangling between Di Maio and Salvini, each of whom command a significant share of the vote but no majority, over the make-up of a potential coalition government. Di Maio has ruled out any alliance that includes Forza Italia, while Salvini refuses to drop Berlusconi's party from his three-party bloc.
Talks between Italy's head of state and each of the parties on Thursday "did not make progress", announced President Sergio Mattarella, who is meeting today with the speakers of parliament's upper and lower houses.
"I will wait a few days before deciding how to proceed in order to end the impasse," the president said, adding that he had stressed to each party the importance of getting a working government in place.
Sirante's satirical mural, meanwhile, was swiftly removed by carabinieri.
It was the same fate suffered by a more optimistic piece of political street art, a painting of Salvini and Di Maio sharing a tender kiss that appeared shortly before the first session of Italy's new parliament three weeks ago.
Caravaggio's study of the seedy side of 16th-century Italy, painted around 1594, now hangs in the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, in the United States.
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
- What to expect from Italy's government talks
- Who is Italian President Sergio Mattarella? The man guiding Italy through rocky government talks
- 400 women in Italy's Democratic Party protest 'boys' club' culture