Oliviero Rainaldi the redeemer: Artist fixes Pope statue

Revamped artwork of John Paul II unveiled after public and Vatican poured scorn on the original

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 4:18am

Rome unveiled a revamped statue of Pope John Paul II yesterday, after the first one was pilloried by the public and the Vatican.

Artist Oliviero Rainaldi said he was pleased with the final product, saying it matched his original vision.

When the larger-than-life statue was first unveiled in May last year, it was widely criticised as looking more like Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. The Vatican's own art critic wrote that it looked like a "bomb" had landed.

Rome's mayor quickly assembled a committee of art experts to work with Rainaldi to make the sculpture match what had been approved in his sketches.

The revisions unveiled yesterday focus on the pope's face: he smiles now, and his neck and chin are more defined, replacing the stern expression of the original. His outstretched arm - with his cloak opened in a gesture of welcoming and protection - is straightened out.

The bronze's greenish hue is also evened out, the dark brown stains that marked the head and cloak mostly removed. And the statue now has its own enclosed pedestal rather than the patch of grass and bush that surrounded it previously.

Umberto Broccoli, Rome's superintendent of cultural heritage, said it was natural the work would elicit a range of opinions, calling Italy a country of 50 million soccer referees, 50 million art critics and 50 million politicians.

"With contemporary art, you have to wait for years to pass before judging it," he said at the site, located in front of Rome's main train station.

Still, passers-by yesterday were not shy about offering their opinions on the statue's (second) inauguration day.

"It's much better than before," said Marco Felici, a 53-year-old road worker. "The face is better and the neck. They did a good job this time."

Commuter Alberto Donella, however, wasn't convinced.

"It's not him," he said. "For me it still looks like a refrigerator."