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Meet the artist who made Pope Francis' first official portrait

2014-05-17

This portrait was given to Pope Francis as a gift. It was given to him by Australia's Embassy to the Holy See to mark 40 years since both countries established diplomatic relations with one another.

The artist is Chinese painter Shen Jiawei. He says that when the Pope saw the portrait, he was impressed. He looked at it carefully and then gave it his blessing. 

SHEN JIAWEI 
Painter and Sculptor
"The painting is quite big. You could say it's life size. When the Pope saw it, he looked at it closely and in Italian, he said  'It looks just like me.' 

The Pope is surrounded by seemingly random people, who actually aren't that random. The artist reviewed a series of official Vatican photographs. From there, he individually selected the expressions of people when they see the Pope.

SHEN JIAWEI 
Painter and Sculptor
"I simply used Google to see photographs of people when they meet the Pope  in St. Peter's Square or elsewhere. So I chose some of them individually and then put them all in a group. I tried to use all kinds of people, with different skin color, and people from different countries.” 

This isn't the first time this artist meets a Pope. Back in 1995, John Paul II congratulated him for his portrait of Australia's first saint, St. Mary  MacKillop .


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