Page last updated at 20:29 GMT, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Spiritual Best portrait unveiled

George Best portrait
Michael Browne unveiled his latest work at Salford Art Gallery

An artist who once caused controversy with his portrait of Eric Cantona as Christ has turned his attention to another Manchester United legend.

Michael Browne's latest work depicts George Best as a spiritual figure ascending to Heaven, flanked by two prophets and two naked women.

The portrait, based on Raphael's The Transfiguration, was unveiled at Salford Art Gallery on Wednesday.

Manchester-based Browne denied he was trying to portray Best as God.

'Earthly delights'

"It's drawing the parallels with lifestyles," he told the BBC.

"So if a person wants to look at it as an offence and say, 'You're trying to say he's God, he's Jesus, he's this'. But no, I'm not saying that.

"George Best had his own human problems in life but he is ascending in his own way to another existence.

"That's my image of him as a spiritual being, as an ascension, and he is leaving behind his earthly delights," he added.

United-fan Browne, who grew up in Moss Side, is known for producing large scale Renaissance-style paintings often featuring well known figures.

His depiction of Cantona as Christ in his painting The Art of the Game, based on Piero della Francesca's Resurrection, drew criticism from the Church.

Best, considered by many to be United's greatest ever player, died in 2005 at the age of 59.

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