Divine Cantona rises again

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The Independent Online
Eric Cantona's career may have risen from the dead last season, when he returned after a year's suspension for his famous kung-fu kick, but that hardly makes the man divine. Or does it?

In a controversial new portrait, unveiled this morning, Cantona is substituted for Jesus Christ. The Art of the Game sardonically elevates the philosophising French footballer to the god-like status bestowed on him by fans.

The image of Cantona used by Michael Browne derives from a 15th Century Italian Renaissance painting, Piero della Francesca's Resurrection of Christ. Apart from the tactful removal of stigmata and shroud, the reproduction is faithful, showing a bare-chested Cantona emerging from the tomb.

Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United, and some of the team's other players also feature in the painting. With reference to Andrea Mantegna's Julius Caesar on his Truimphal Chariot, Mr Ferguson is depicted as Caesar. He is holding a palm, the traditional symbol adopted by early Christians as a symbol of Christ's triumph over death. His troops - Phil Neville, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Gary Neville - are presented as sleeping players.

Fans hoping to purchase the shrine will be disappointed to learn that the 10ft by 8ft oil painting has already been bought - by the deity himself.

Manchester-born Browne, 32, who has also painted a version of the Sistine Chapel frescoes on the ceiling of a restaurant in the city, is confident that his canvas, exhibited at Manchester City Art Galleries from tomorrow, will not cause offence. "To the person on the street it will be tongue in cheek. I don't believe people will take it seriously as an insult. It reflects street humour - the kind of humour the fans have."