August 14, 2010

Oreste Fernando Nannetti, I Graffiti di NOF4/Graffiti of NOF4

Oreste Fernando Nannetti (1927-1994) is known because of an enormeous graffiti he carved into the plaster of an outside wall of the psychiatric institution in Volterra, Italy, where he was hospitalized. The creation, made between 1959 and 1972, was some 180 m long and some 1.20 m high.

Life and works

Nannetti has spent most of hs life in institutions. He was born in Rome, never knew who his father was, and when he was seven, he already was included into a charitable instution. At the age of ten he came to live in an institution for people with a a mental handicap.

At the age of 21, in 1948, he had to appear in court because of insulting authorities. He was not formally sentenced, as he was declared to be psychiatric, so he was sent into a psychiatric instittition in Rome.

In 1958 Nannetti was transferred to the psychiatric hospital in the city of Volterra, at that time one of the largest (and outdated) institutions in Italy.

Here, in 1959, he began making his creation on the wall. Having no instruments, he used the buckle of his belt to carve the drawings and texts into the plaster.

Nannetti also has produced texts and drawings on paper made by pen and ink, some 1700 altogether, combined into a large book. These creations have gone lost, being burned, together with some personal belongings after he left the hospital. However, of this creation photocopies have been made.

He also has decorated a 106 m long guard rail, but this one has definitely disappeared. 

 picture courtesy of Astrid Berglund

In his works Nannetti, who preferred to refer to himself as NOF4 or Nanof, evokes an imaginary world. He depicts himself as an astral colonel, or an astronautic mining engineer and he tells stories about cosmic travels, conquests of imaginary countries, telepathic cosmic connections, magical powers and fantastic impersonations, all together creating his own fantasy world, of which he himself is one of the main characters.

After he was discharged from the clinic in 1973 Nannetti went to live in the city of Volterra, where he died in 1994. I did not come along information about how he earned a living during the last twenty years of his life.

Saving what has remained of the creation

In 1978 the Italian government made the rather drastic decision to close all large psychiatric institutions in the country. This also related to the institute in Volterra, which was closed in 1979.

Aldo Trafeli, who worked as a nurse in the hospital and who had recognized the significance of Nannetti's inscriptions, made sure that they were photographed.(by Pier Nello Manoni -see documentation).

After the institute was closed, the buildings just have been left as they were. The graffiiti wall became neglected and meanwhile about half of the plaster has gone.

Although there always have been people who were interested in this work, as it was seen as a rather authentic specimen of art brut, only from around 2010 there was more general interest. Pleas to save the work appeared in writing and on video's, and a non-profit organisation was formed (Inclusione Graffio & Parole) to save what has been left of the graffiti.

The city has plans to reconstruct the grounds of the hospital and transform it into a residential area. I understand that in this context debate is ungoing about a relocation of Nannetti's creation.


In 2010, from september 3 untill october 3, Nannetti's creations could be seen at an exposition of (graffitied and textual) outsider art in the city of Genova, Museoteatro della Commenda di Pré, curated by Gustavo Giacosa of the association ContemporArt 

In 2011 the Lausanne Art Brut museum  had an exposition about Nannetti's work (may 13 - october 30). 

* Francesco Cortonesi, Abramo de Licio, Silvia Baglioni, NOF4, E'Fantascienza, non follia!, photo exposition (ambulatory), 2010, trailer on Youtube.
* A fotoseries on Flickr by Carlo Tardani (uploaded may 2011) about the abandoned psychiatric hospital

first published aug 2010, revised sept 2011

Oreste Fernando Nannetti
 I Graffiti di NOF4 
Volterra, Toscane, Italy 
partly saved, visitable


  1. Oh!! indeed Art Brut this is, by all means. What moves me the most is to think if Nanneti was trying to communicate something,,like trying to send a help message from a world in where he was trapped. Like trying to show he was alive and trying to come back and sharing the visions he had in such world. Thus, to preserve these ilustrations should be a must, if not only for artistic purpose, at least for humanitary sake. I wonder if, despite it all,,we are like Nanneti, beings caught in our own worlds, perceiving a reallity and trying to stablish a link with the rest of the inhabitants of what we call the real world.

    Receive my best regards dear Henk.

  2. Thanks a lot for this comment, Alberto Oliver. I am very much in favour with the way you look at this creative work. All the best, Henk

  3. Hi, tihs is the web site intresting for you, i hope...

  4. @ Francesco. Thanks a lot. I noted this is a link to the photo exposition by Francesco Cortonesi c.s. I am referring to in the documentation section.