Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI turns 86 today—and at a party in his honor, the German Embassy to the Holy See is unveiling a new portrait of the former pontiff. The painting is the work of German artist Michael Triegel, nicknamed “Pabstmaler” or “Pope Painter”.
TRIEGEL’S EARLY CAREER
The award-winning Michael Triegel began his career in 1987 as a graphic artist; but in what he described as a “second birth” in a Roman church, he experienced an artistic awakening which refocused his career. He first tried his hand at painting landscapes, developing his skill on regular trips to Italy, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In 2000, he gained fame after executing “Allegory of Good Government”, a mural in the historic town hall at Plochingen.
THE ARTIST’S NOTED ECCLESIASTICAL WORKS
In 2005-06, Triegel worked on a polyptych, a multi-panel painting on wood. Closed, the polyptych depicts the Last Judgment. Inside, the polyptych depicts (left to right) the Baptism of Christ, the Adoration of the Child, and the Last Supper.
In 2007, Triegel returned the Scriptural theme to create a work which showed Abraham and Isaac; inside were the Stoning of Stephen, the Conversion of St. Paul, and the Resurrection.
In 2009-10, he executed a ceiling painting at the Cathedral at Würzburg, and a portrait of Regensburg Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller.
At the end of 2010 Triegel received one more ecclesiastical commission, to create an altarpiece for the Church of St. Augustine in Dettelbach (in the Diocese of Würzburg). The finished altarpiece, depicting scenes from the life of St. Augustine, was consecrated on the feast of St. Augustine, August 28, 2011.
THE PAPAL PORTRAITS
In 2010, Michael Triegel was commissioned to paint the first official portrait of Pope Benedict, which is now displayed in the Benedict XVI Institute in Regensburg. Sven Behrisch, writing in TIME magazine, said that with the Benedict paintings, Triegel had created his best work.
“…Triegel has portrayed not only the Pope, but he has portrayed the Catholic Church: bossy and doubtful, arrogant and frail. He has achieved what the Church did not always lately… He has shown himself human.”
On April 16, 2013, Triegel’s second papal portrait was unveiled on the occasion of Benedict’s 86th birthday. The work is on permanent loan to the German Embassy to the Holy See.