Art Daily profiles Natalia Tsarkova, an Orthodox Christian who happens to be the Vatican’s official painter:

Tsarkova arrived in Rome in the early 1990s and began doing portraits of Roman aristocrats, who introduced her at the Vatican where her background captured the attention of late pope John Paul II.

“He spoke Russian with me. He said ‘Long live Russian art!’” remembers the now 45-year-old, thumping her fist for emphasis with the same glee as the late pontiff.

John Paul II made great strides in rebuilding relations with the Russian Orthodox Church and Tsarkova said she too feels she can play a role.

“I feel like a small bridge between Orthodoxy and Catholicism. I am like a diplomat with art.”

Tsarkova has done portraits of John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, the recently canonized Fr. Giacomo da Ghazir Haddad, and many others. Some of her paintings can be seen here .

While Tsarkova paints in the classical western style, crossing artistic boundaries between east and west is not alien to the Vatican. Readers might be interested to know, for example, that the Papal Archbasilica itself is partly decorated in a somewhat Byzantine manner:

The BBC recently conducted an  interview  with Tsarkova, in which you can catch glimpses of her current endeavor, a painting of St. George slaying a dragon, and her pet owl, Rufus.

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