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January 17th, 2003
Museum Welcomes Official Vatican Portrait by Renowned Painter Nelson Shanks

A major portrait by the well-known Bucks County-based painter Nelson Shanks depicting the likeness of Pope John Paul II is on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through February 2, 2003. Recently unveiled at the Basilica Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, the painting was commissioned by the Vatican and will join a touring exhibition of works from the Vatican entitled St. Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes.

Shanks, a long-time resident of Andalusia, Pennsylvania, has exhibited works at the Museum in the past and is known as one of the foremost classically trained portraitists in the United States today. He has painted former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, as well as Lady Margaret Thatcher, Diana, Princess of Wales, tenor Luciana Pavarotti, and Washington Post owner Katherine Graham.

In his most recent work Shanks depicts—with near-photographic attention to detail— Pope John Paul II as he appeared in the early nineties, in good health, standing with his arm raised, donning a miter and vestments. Hanging in the Museum’s second-floor Renaissance galleries near works by famous Italian Renaissance masters like Luca Della Robbia, the 54-by-50 inch portrait testifies to Shanks mastery of classical painting and his acute study of the legacy of papal portraiture. He notes that although he is a non-catholic, this portrait, "represents...the most profound spirituality I have ever confronted or felt while painting..."

The portrait is scheduled for installation at the Vatican Museum in September 2004.

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