The canvas depicts an upright, beckoning pontiff, and is based on photos from the early 1990s. Shanks said he wanted to show Pope John Paul II in his prime and in his element -- he's depicted in the transept of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. "(It) represents ... the most profound spirituality I have ever confronted or have felt while painting, owing to the nature of the subject, of course," said Shanks, who is not Catholic. "But also, I think, in terms of the psychological penetration achieved, the integration of the man, his spirituality, and that of the building that he is standing in."
Shanks, 64, of Andalusia, put aside other commissions, including a portrait of former President Bill Clinton, while he worked on the Vatican job for more than 21 months. He wouldn't say how much he was paid for the project.