ROME — What does one give the Pope for Christmas? Somehow appliances seem inappropriate, altarpieces and reliquaries have been done to the point of overkill, and food, cash and other sundries will be immediately re-gifted.
It takes a truly creative mind to come up with the perfect papal present.
Therefore, it should not be surprising that the best pontifical stocking stuffer was produced by Rome’s reigning queen of painting, Natalia Tsarkova, papal portraitist to John Paul II and Benedict XVI as well as executrix of the only official portrait of the short-lived Pope John Paul I.
This Christmas, however, instead of using her formidable talent to compose monumental canvases of men and events that shaped the world, Tsarkova gave the Pope (and us) a chance to see through the eyes of a child in her fairy tale book, Il Mistero del Piccolo Stagno — “The Mystery of the Little Pool” released by the Vatican’s own publishing house on Dec. 11.