One night in early 2019, the Rome street artist Papru pasted a stylized image of Christ, which she created on a bridge near the Vatican, but was shocked to learn that the Vatican had used that image on an Easter postage, and the Vatican printed 80,000 initial stamps of Christ at a price of 1.15 Euros per piece, according to the lawsuit. The stamps and commemorative folder were still for sale at the Vatican Post Office last week and featured prominently in the cashier’s office as a promotional item for sale.
Papro filed a lawsuit against the Vatican Communications Office, in a court in Rome last month, arguing that the Vatican was making the wrong use of her creativity and violating the original intent of her artistic work. The lawsuit, which seeks compensation of 130,000 euros, said the Vatican had not formally responded to Papro’s attempts to negotiate a settlement, after it discovered that he had used her photo without her consent and then sold it.
“I honestly thought it was a joke, and the real shock was that you don’t expect certain things from certain organizations,” Babrou said in an interview, steps away from St. Peter’s Square.
Home of art
The Vatican is home to some of the greatest artworks ever, and it strongly protects its right to reproduce by enforcing its copyright laws, on everything from the Sistine Chapel to the House of Michelangelo. But now the tables have turned, and the Vatican is accused of violating the intellectual property rights of the street artist.
It is an important benchmark for Italy and evidence of the growing appreciation of street art, like Banksy, and the belief that anonymous “guerrilla art” deserves protection against unauthorized corporate promotion, copyright lawyers familiar with the case say. Or in this case, church marketing.