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Pizzeria owner hires muralist to paint Dune-inspired masterpiece: ‘No pizza puns, strictly Dune’

[points and whispers] That’s the God Emperor of Dune

Dun Image: Brian Gonnella
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

Dune is currently a big hit, and tons of people on social media are talking about the film’s setting, aesthetics, big battles, and uh... Duncan Idaho. There’s one story on social media that isn’t necessarily related to the film, but it is about the beauty of the source material.

A tweet posted on Oct. 24, which has since gone viral, reads: “Gonna see Dune not because you all are obsessed with it but on the reco of my friend who spent money he didn’t have on a huge dune mural in the garbage area behind his pizzeria inaccessible to customers because he ‘needed it to center himself alone before big pizza rushes.’”

It’s a great tweet, but the story got even better when the artist stepped forward to reveal pictures of the mural. Since Dune is originally a book series, there’s no one consistent visual representation of its world, so there were a lot of options for what the mural could look like. What elements from the fiction would it include? Well, turns out it’s a trippy masterpiece with some nods to the extended canon that hardcore Dune fans will recognize.

Polygon spoke to the artist, Brian Gonnella, who works as a muralist in Pittsburgh, via Twitter. “Matt (the owner) had purchased a few paintings off me at a local gallery/bar,” wrote Gonnella. “It was very sci-fi influenced at the time.”

Gonnella was commissioned to paint the massive mural behind the Pizza Pronto restaurant. “His only condition was that it had to be Dune,” Gonnella continued. “No pizza puns, strictly Dune — and I mean like, deep lore Dune. So I pitched him a concept, he dug it, and we went from there.”

Gonnella used much of his natural style in the mural, but he also drew from the deep well of Dune canon and adaptations from popular culture. “I took a few cues from the Dune [of] my youth, the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries and sequel miniseries Children of Dune starring a young James McAvoy, and a Google search of past covers, but most of this came from my brain. It was the same aesthetic as the sci-fi paintings dude bought off me years earlier... just Dune.”

Keen-eyed Dune fans might even spot an unusual character cameo. “The three-eyed dude is the God Emperor Leto II, son of Paul Atreides ... he’s from a sequel book [author Frank] Herbert wrote called God Emperor of Dune. Like I said, deep lore.”

Mural artist Brian Gonnella standing in front of his Dune mural, behind Pizza Pronto Image: Brian Gonnella

According to a later tweet, the mural is in a place where “no one ever sees it.” But it seems to serve its purpose.

“I have never seen [Matt] do his battle meditation, but when I finished, he stared at it and smoked a cig for like 10 mins in complete silence, so maybe he was visualizing it then,” wrote Gonnella.

The next level of puzzles.

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