AP Interview: Pope sculptor gets second chance

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The bronze’s “patina,” or sheen, which now ranges from a sickly green to a brownish area on the cloak that looks as if a cappuccino was spilled on it, will be redone, leaving the work with a uniform, dark “cold green” hue, the 55-year-old artist said.

While the city’s announcement says the head will be “redone,” Rainaldi insists he’ll only do “technical touchups.”

A pedestal will be created for the sculpture, which sits on a small island of lawn, surrounded by modest rose bushes, with wilting blossoms in the yellow and white hues of the Vatican.

The Vatican’s acid pen was even more startling given Rainaldi’s impeccable credentials. Committee member Buranelli, a former director of the Vatican Museums, hailed a mystical vein in Rainaldi’s work in a commentary about his art in a coffee-table book.

Rainaldi was tapped by John Paul to become a member of a five-century-old prestigious pontifical academy of architects, musicians and artists.

In his studio is a photograph of a smiling Pope Benedict XVI, his eyes twinkling with curiosity, with Rainaldi beaming in the background, as the pontiff studies an oil painting of a gauzy, ghostlike figure representing saintliness. The artist’s work was included in a show at the Vatican this summer celebrating Benedict’s 60 years in the priesthood.

Rainaldi downplayed any hard feelings over the harsh criticism, although he did reveal that in the first days of the flap, he had holed up in his studio, only to slip out one night to stand in the station square and ask passers-by what they thought without identifying himself as the sculptor.

“The idea was to do a homage to the pope,” Rainaldi said, adding he could have done a literal image, like “the hundreds of those you see in souvenir shops.”

Instead, he said: “I did a sculpture.”

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AP reporter Eugenio Montesano contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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