Those had become a regular feature during the theatre of his brief term as manager; the Italian following Saturday's defeat by West Bromich Albion by acting out in front of his side's supporters, lifting his chin with his hand to indicate that they should keep their heads up despite a trying start to the campaign. Some fans then offered a few hand signals of their own - among the easiest to translate coming from those presumably counting with one finger how many league points their club had taken from five matches, although not all of them used the traditional digit.
It was the gesture made by a delegation of his players which would catch the eye of the club's board. Sunderland had left The Hawthorns defeated but the squad had become beaten, too, by a manager who had come to conduct his post-match interviews with the same lightness of touch that a wrecking ball applies to a wall. It would prove just as destructive - a group of senior players reportedly seeking an audience with Margaret Byrne, Sunderland's chief executive, and director of football Roberto De Fanti on Sunday to voice their grievances. The response was to give Di Canio the elbow.
It is tempting to envisage the Italian getting into a flap as he was informed that his reign was being cut short, but his flamboyance had become too garish for Sunderland. Mobile phones, tomato ketchup and ice cubes were all turned into items of contraband at the club's training centre - a pervasive influence which a squad found impossible to tolerate.
Those same eccentricities and spirited outbursts had found a receptive audience last season when Di Canio was placed in charge of a team under threat of relegation and with nowhere else to turn to, but became discordant as the club started the season with renewed vigour. The board had allowed him to dress up his squad as he wished in the summer - and they have a £19m bill to prove it - but it was seen as unseemly when the manager stripped his teams of their dignity after an insufficient performance.
"You cannot manage in the Premier League these days through a fear factor," said Steve Bruce, the former Sunderland manager who is not in charge at Hull City. "You've got to be able to manage individuals. Man management has become more relevant in my experience than coaching. Once you get yourself in the Premier League, they're all good players and you've got to find a way of getting the best out of them."
There are many managers who will attest to that, particularly those who found themselves in charge of the young, capricious Di Canio. A striker capable of startling artistry, he was at first a man with a tendency to go in the huff - the Italian once starting a fierce argument with Gordon Marshall during a Celtic training session because the goalkeeper had been reluctant to throw him the ball. "He stormed off Barrowfield and walked up London Road," said Billy Stark, assistant manager during Di Canio's solitary season in Glasgow.
Those 12 months were still long enough to pick up the SPFA Player of the Year award and also put together a catalogue of anecdotes - Di Canio smuggled a fish head into the bed of Peter Grant during a European trip after noting his team-mate's apparent aversion to seafood as the squad sat down for dinner. "It was more like a shark's head he'd put in my bed," said Grant later. "I think most people would have been a bit startled by it."
Time has allowed such moments to inform the cult of Di Canio but he would leave Scottish football after another tempest, demands for higher wages ending with the forward being moved on to Sheffield Wednesday.
It was the unreasonable demands he placed on his players at Sunderland which have put him on the move again. His former squad will not sit still and await news of who will replace him, although Roberto Di Matteo has already emerged as a favourite among the bookmakers. The former Chelsea manager would seem to fit with existing infrastructure at the Stadium of Light since Di Canio has left behind a number of his compatriots in control of the first team, including De Fanti.
Fans will settle for a manager who wins, rather than an empty gesture.