Archbishop Georg Gänswein, secretary to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, tried to compel painter Michael Triegl to re-do his portrait of the pope which was commissioned by the Diocese of Regensburg, the Pforzheimer Zeitung reports. But the painter declined.
Triegl’s comments, although they concern a memorial picture rather than liturgical art, raise issues that are important in a general way for the Church’s interaction with artists.
Gänswein told the painter that his worked did not succeed in capturing “the “youthful sparkle [Frische] of His Holiness.” He objected that the mouth of the pope is open and a bit crooked. And parts of his vesture or “inappropriately crooked.”
But Triegel stated:
“I listen very gladly to what the client wants. But of course I myself must be responsible for how I implement it.”
Triegel observes that churchmen who give commissions are
“often especially defensive in their dealings with noteworthy artists and intimidate them, and then they have to satisfy themselves works of inferior quality instead… There is a reason why the term ‘church art’ today has immediate connotations of low quality. Unfortunately, church art is often only church kitsch.”