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Eccentric Russian artist finds a career as papal portraitist


VATICAN CITY (RNS) As the popes’ official painter, Natalia Tsarkova says she tries to capture both the physical reality and the spiritual essence of her subjects.

But the Russian-born artist confessed she was “shocked” just like everyone else when Pope Benedict XVI, who posed twice for her, announced his resignation on Feb. 11.

Since the late 1990s, this Orthodox Christian artist has been the official portraitist of the popes, with her paintings now hanging in Vatican palaces, Roman churches and museums around the world.
The fact that she wasn’t a Catholic never proved a problem. In fact, she says, “I felt that with my art I could be like a link between the Catholics and the Orthodox.”

I suspect one reason a Russian artist was chosen is that Russia is one of the few places where in art school you can still actually learn to paint decently.


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