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Pope Francis Portrait Commissioned to American Master Artist, Igor Babailov, Hon. RAA

NASHVILLE, April 30, 2014 /PRNewswire-iReach/ Igor Babailov, Hon. RAA, Vatican Papal artist of Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, has just returned from Rome to paint his official portrait of Pope Francis for the Vatican, and will have painted three Popes, one of whom is now a Saint. Official arrangements were made for the artist to go to the Vatican where he drew sketches of Pope Francis from life, met him and received his blessing. His Vatican portraits are officially commissioned and privately sponsored by distinguished art patrons and friends of the Vatican and hang in the Vatican Museums.

Igor Babailov, Hon. RAA, is a world-renowned master of painting and drawing and acknowledged by the Vatican Curator as "Maestro". Academician of the Russian Academy of Art (est. 1757), his officially commissioned portraits include Presidents, PM's, Royalty, Popes, celebrities, and Fortune 500 CEOs. His works are in important museums and collections including the Vatican Museum, Mount Vernon Museum, Presidential Libraries, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, the Kremlin, West Point Museum, and other prestigious collections. According to Babailov, "Artist" is a profession given by God to represent creation in its beauty and glory and without alterations."

Igor Babailov's portrait of Saint John Paul II hangs in the Vatican in Castelgandolfo and his portrait of Pope Benedict XVI hangs in the Vatican in Rome. In 2010, Babailov's portrait of Pope Benedict XVI was selected by the Pope to represent His Papacy, in the Vatican Splendors Museum Tour. He was the only living artist in the exhibit deemed worthy to hang alongside of the works of Michelangelo, Bernini, Giotto and other Renaissance masters.

A child prodigy, the artist painted his first portrait at the age of four. According to EWTN Rome News Bureau Chief, Joan Lewis, "Most of us cannot even spell the word portrait at the age of four, and Babailov already painted one." The artist began his fine art education at the age of nine, studying with the top academics in his field and received an MFA and PhD equivalent. Through his historic lineage, he is a third generation direct-descendent student of great masters of portraiture, Repin and Serov. He has painted more than 2,000 works of art and is a scholar, author and an advocate for human rights especially children. He is recipient of numerous distinguished awards including the Pontifical Medal of John Paul II, The U.S. Military Commander's Medal for Excellence, the Order 'Service to Art' of the International Academy of Culture and Art.

According to Babailov. "It is a major responsibility to paint the legacy portrait of a Pope, a public painting to be seen by future generations. It is a visual history and a celebration of life. It must communicate the Pope's personality, challenges and achievements, and be the most accurate portrayal of how he looked at his very best. The placement of hands, "a portrait within a portrait" reveals the true skill of a great artist to paint them in a natural position with anatomical accuracy; incorporating symbolic references and their factual accuracy based on intensive research of primary sources. It takes years of study, skill, experience of working from life, prayer and enlightenment. The Papal portrait must communicate a story in the most positive and inspiring way.

Pope Francis underlines the key relationship between grandparents and children in passing on lessons and wisdom. It is the same in the arts. That is the imperative value of passing on the traditional academic school and why we must never break the form. God created it and owns the copyright. Saint John Paul II, in his Letter to the Artists in 1999, wrote that the artistic vocation is in the service of beauty, and the artist paints the image of God the Creator in all its forms - the fruitful alliance between the Gospel and art and its goal for the common good.

Artists must avoid the entrapment of becoming slaves to technology. The skeleton of a portrait is the life drawing, and like Rafael and Michelangelo, artists should strive to master the drawing skill to gain a profound knowledge and respect of the perfection of nature and the human anatomy. This is the difference between a photograph and a portrait painting and the difference between a good portrait painting and a great one.

Everyone is asking how I will paint Pope Francis, as my portraits are my own original creations. They are a product of my academic schooling, skill and experience, my strong faith and the beauty I choose to paint, and my personal life journey for renewed humility and guidance from the Holy Spirit.

Much of today's art has dumbed down to merely a wall decoration, a tool for moral relativism, leading to faithlessness and emptiness. We do not see many contemporary that appeals to human compassion. Yet there are spiritual realists artists who are keeping the traditions alive and for whom we need to teach, support and pray for.

And then God gives the world Pope Francis, who kneels to wash the feet of the least of us and who caresses the face of a young girl with down syndrome, looks into her eyes, the window of the soul, restores her dignity, confirms the faith, and gives her the love she so needs and deserves. This is Pope I met and drew and for whom I am honored and humbled to paint."

Igor Babailov was interviewed by EWTN Rome's News Bureau Chief, Joan Lewis, "Joan's Rome" for Insights and Observations from the Heart of the Church, who had interviewed him for his previous Papal portraits, For more information visit

Media Contact: Mary Calia, CaliaWebb Communications, 516 429-8486,

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SOURCE Igor Babailov, Hon. RAA

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