Portrait of Pope Benedict XVI reproduced on the occasion of his visit to Britain

Michael Noakes, the portrait painter, was commissioned by the Vatican to paint Pope Benedict XVI shortly after he was elected, although it took about a year before he started work. The Holy Father sat for Mr Noakes in the library attached to his private apartments in the Vatican.

The finished work hangs in the Vatican, but Mr Noakes also worked on a related study which he has kept in his studio. For the occasion of the recent papal visit to Britain the portrait is reproduced on the right.

“I was the only painter to whom [Pope Benedict] had given time for a portrait,” Mr Noakes said. “I think it is still true that I am the only artist to have been given that opportunity.”

Mr Noakes gave the Pope a book on the daily life of the Queen, written by his wife Vivien and illustrated by him.

The artist, who was educated at Downside and the Royal Academy schools, said: “I found the Pope diffident and even perhaps a little shy. He is not large man. We talked in English and, rather charmingly, he seemed to use every opportunity to shake hands.”