Virgin and Child on U.S. Christmas stamp

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has issued a Christmas Forever stamp featuring the Virgin and Child at a dedication ceremony at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Depicting the tender bond between a mother and her child, interpretations of the Virgin Mary with the Christ child take innumerable forms in the Christian art of the Italian Renaissance. This stamp features an oil-on-panel painting from the first half of the 16th century by an unidentified Florentine artist. Art director Greg Breeding designed the USPS issue, which is available in 20-stamp booklets.

“I am honoured to represent the postal service as we dedicate a Christmas stamp that features one of the most revered images in the world — the Virgin Mary holding her infant child, Jesus,” said USPS Organization Development Vice President Jenny Utterback, who served as the dedicating official. “It’s a beautiful piece of art, with particular meaning this time of year. I choose my holiday cards with care, sign them with love or best wishes, and may write a personal note inside. Holiday cards are a special way to connect with family and friends. The stamp on the envelope holds significance as well.”

Art historians have long speculated about the identity of this artist and have sometimes associated this painting and related paintings with the names of various 16th-century figures. Scholars now attribute this “Virgin and Child” to a Florentine artist who has been known since the late 1960s as the Master of the Scandicci Lamentation. The name is based on similarities in style evident in a painting called “The Lamentation on the Dead Christ” made for a church in the town of Scandicci, near Florence.

Italian Renaissance artists were often inspired to imitate the compositions of their contemporaries. Scholars believe that this artist based the poses of the Virgin Mary and the Christ child in this painting on the two central figures in the “Madonna of the Baldacchino,” an unfinished altarpiece made by the painter Raphael for a church in Florence between 1506 and 1508.

The Virgin and Child painting is in the Robert Dawson Evans Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts.

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