Matt Walden is something of an art collector extraordinaire. While walking through his home in Houston, Texas, you might behold his collection – amazing pieces of pop culture spins on classic motifs and styles. St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, maybe the only actual religious of his “saintly” paintings, with a series furthered by parodies from the “Gospel according to LOST” by author Chris Seay. Lastly, a folky painting of Rich Mullins as “St. Rich, the Patron Saint of Ragamuffins,” topped off the quirky compound.
Matt though, as interesting as his art sense may be, is just a normal family man. He likes baseball, red meat, and loves spending time with his kids and wife. He enjoys a nice beer, and takes pride in his facial hair. Fair enough.
But Romanisti, he is also an avid Roma fan – un di noi – and he recently commissioned the best piece of football artwork this century has seen. I give to you, “St. Totti, the patron saint of Roma.”
The story begins on the internet. One day, while involving himself in the usual banter of largest English-speaking Roma forum, “Bigsoccer,” something caught his eye. That something was the original Totti icon in the vintage split red and gold. You know it, you’ve seen it.
This painting, which was folklore to the footballing world, was crafted by Swiss-based artisan David Diehl. Walden notes,
He and I talked over email and I shared my collection of other icons with him. I enquired about purchasing the old Totti icon, but he said it had been sold and wasn’t available. I was bummed,
until he offered to make a new icon in honor of Totti’s 25 years playing with Roma and his 40th birthday.
The rest, as we say, is history. On July 7th, 2016, we started tossing around ideas for what the painting would eventually look like. I wanted to make sure it had the captain’s armband and the home jersey from the final season. Based upon those conversations, Diehl sent me different mockups regarding different jerseys, hairstyles, faces, etc.
About a month later, Walden was rewarded with an almost-finished product:
Later, Diehl would add actual gold-leaf to the background. It was finished on September 14th, just almost two weeks later, Walden would get the surprise of his new “patron saint.” On the captain’s birthday, September 27th, he found the painting waiting for him at his front door.
Of course, I asked him the usual leading question, of which everyone has synonymous and likewise answers: “Why Totti?”
To me, Totti is the reason i fell in love with Roma. I went to Rome on my honeymoon and went to a Roma game and was blown away. It was a home game in 2003 against Empoli and Totti scored in a 3-1 win. On the way back to the hotel after the match, i bought a Totti poster, and almost every memory of Roma since has revolved around Totti. I watch every Roma game, no matter where i am in the world. and this painting to me will be eternal, just like Totti’s achievements at Roma!
I’ve had the honor of meeting him twice, and he spent some time with my son once before he walked out on the field with the team in Denver. To say he will be missed is an understatement!
Such a monument is truly remarkable for Er Pupone’s supposed final season, and Walden’s newest piece is undoubtedly some of the finest artwork the footballing world may ever see.
Possibly the greatest sense of satisfaction came when Totti replied about the painting on his official website:
Diehl can be reached on Twitter @Daviddiehld_art, while Walden is @Mattwalden37. You can see some more Walden’s personal collection below: