“Thou shalt not steal — but the Vatican did anyway,” reports MSN.
Italian street artist Alessia Babrow filed a lawsuit last month against the Vatican, home of the Catholic Church, for merchandising her artwork without permission, according to the AP. In 2019, Babrow pasted a stylized image of Christ on a wall near the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II bridge, the central bridge for entering the Vatican, The Associated Press reported. In 2020, her stylized image was used by the Vatican on its Easter stamp merchandise — without her permission.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Babrow said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I honestly thought it was a joke. The real shock was that you don’t expect certain things from certain organizations.”
The artwork in question: “Just Use It” Christ
About 14 inches tall, Babrow’s street art used a stylized print of Christ by 19th-century German painter Heinrich Hofmann, the AP said. On Christ’s torso, Babrow added her signature heart — a human heart with the words “JUST USE IT” printed graffiti-style. Inside the heart, Babrow scripted her initials.
The piece is part of Babrow’s “Just Use It” collection, which she began in 2013 and depicts other figures such as Buddha, Hindu Ganesha and the Virgin Mary with the same heart, per the AP. The collection aims to “promote the intelligence and the brain of the heart,” Babrow said, according the AP.
The pending lawsuit
After sending three letters to the Vatican asking for recognition of her copyright, Babrow did not receive a response and decided to pursue legal action, ArtNet reported. She filed the lawsuit to protect her rights as an artist and to protect her artwork, she told the AP, not as an attack on the Catholic Church or the Vatican.
- “Suing the Vatican was not really part of my plans,” Babrow said, according to ArtNet, “Unfortunately, this story is bigger than me.”
According to numerous lawyers in reporting from ArtNet and the AP, Babrow has a strong case since much intellectual property law in Europe and the U.S. protects artists’ rights even if the piece is created illegally on public or private property. Essentially, the medium does not matter in the eyes of the law, ArtNet said.