Chris christie’s portrait will cost more than any of his predecessors

“I try to squeeze all the juice out of the orange that I can," Christie once told The New York Times, a quote that, like the photo of him lounging on the beach during last year’s government shutdown, is often used as a reference point for what many view as his self-interested political philosophy.

Christie, who left office in January, signed a contract in December to have Sydney-based artist Paul Newton paint his official portrait. The work was commissioned through Sewell Fine Portraiture, a Manhattan firm that boasts on its website that its artists are a "select number of the world’s finest portrait painters and sculptors." Those artists have painted portraits of past presidents and governors, according to the website.

The $85,000 cost of the portrait is the highest for a governor since Democrat Jim Florio paid $58,000 for his. Christie’s three immediate predecessors — Jon Corzine, Richard Codey and Jim McGreevey, all Democrats — paid a combined $74,500, according to past news reports.

Christie’s portrait is also costlier than the last two Republican governors’ combined. Christie Whitman paid $48,000 for hers, while her acting replacement when she left to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Donald DiFrancesco, paid $15,000, according to past reports.

Christie’s portrait will be paid for through a taxpayer-funded transition account of $250,000 that is granted to former governors to pay for staff and office space, as well as services such as the painting. It’s typical for former governors to use that account to pay for their portraits. He’s already paid $37,500 toward the portrait and owes $47,500, according to the documents.

Newton has won and repeatedly been a finalist for Australia’s prestigious Archibald Prize and is an official portraitist for Parliament House, the meeting place in the country’s capital of Canberra for members of parliament. His depiction of Our Lady of the Southern Cross was blessed in 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI and hangs in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney.

"On receiving a commission Newton will often repeatedly sketch his subject in a variety of poses, sometimes creating up to 12 sketches in order to narrow down his compositional choices," the story said. "These drawings are then shared with the subject to involve them in the process and he also finds this step helps to take the element of surprise out of a commissioned work."

While some former governors have turned to local artists — Florio hired Plainfield native Ronald Sherr and Codey tapped Flemington’s Paul Jennis — others have, like Christie, selected foreign talent to cast their image in history. Whitman and McGreevey both chose an artist who blended both: Chen Yanning, a native of China who lived in Monmouth County.

It’s unknown where Christie’s portrait will hang, since the statehouse is under a multi-year renovation he ordered. Gubernatorial portraits from William Livingston to Corzine used to hang throughout the statehouse and in the governor’s outer office, where Christie would hold news conference and sometimes point to the portraits of his most recent predecessors as historical references.

When the governor’s office moved up to 225 West State St., portraits of nearly all the most recent governors went along and were hung in the media center where press conferences are now held. But the portraits of two former acting governors — DiFrancesco and Codey, who later changed the law to be recognized without the acting title although he was never elected — were left in the legislative wing of the statehouse, which is not being renovated.

Other details about Christie’s portrait are unknown. But Christie, a history buff who often spoke with awe that he’d become the 55th governor of New Jersey, signaled early on that he viewed the gubernatorial portrait with reverence and had plans for his own.

"I’m getting the oil portrait in the statehouse,” he said in November 2010, when he was just 11 months into his first term. "So here’s the thing — when I bring my grandchildren back to the statehouse and I show them that painting…they’re going to ask me, ‘What did you do, Grandpa, what did you do?”