Blog / 2021 / Just Use It: A Message from Italian Street Artist Alessia Babrow

May 28, 2021

Alessia Babrow Gesù Cristo Risorto
Alessia Babrow Gesù Cristo Risorto

In 2019, the Italian street artist Alessia Babrow created this image of Jesus, his supersized heart emblazoned with the words “just use it.” This artwork comes from a series depicting religious figures like the Buddha and Ganesha, all with the same big heart and poignant message—part directive and part plea.

Well, the Vatican took Babrow at her word: they just used it—her image, that is—without asking her permission or making any payment. Gesù Cristo Risorto appears on the Holy See’s 2020 Easter stamps.

A year later, Babrow is suing the Vatican, which made some noise about not being able to find the maker of the image back in 2020 when the stamp came out, but which also ignored Babrow’s initial request that the Holy See negotiate terms of use with her.

Alessia Babrow Gesù Cristo Risorto on the Vatican’s stamps
Alessia Babrow artwork on the Vatican’s stamps, photo by Andrew Medichini

While hardly the most unforgivable behavior to come out of a church that has molested children and protected criminals for generations, the Vatican’s copyright carelessness rankles, especially considering how bossy it is when it comes to anything it counts as its intellectual property. The Holy See claims the right to control imagery of everything from the Sistine Chapel ceilings to the person of the Pope himself. If that seems a bit sketchy, that’s because it is. But, when you’re your own tiny country ruled by an infallible religious leader, it’s pretty easy for your version of reality to spin off into nonsense.

Out here in the rest of the world, most of us don’t need a law to spell out just how wrong it is to rip off artists, because anyone with a heart already knows that creatives should be compensated for their labor.


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