Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Virgin with Child by Maratta

The Virgin with Child (1660) by Carlo Maratta (1625-1713)
New Zealand Stamp 3d Issued Christmas 1966
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Carlo Maratta spent the majority of his life as a well regarded artist and it said to be the last classical style artist in a long line from Raphael.   He began his career while he was young - he was born in a papal state and moved to Rome at age 11 under the care of a friend of his father who was also a secretary to the nephew of the Pope.  These good connections must have assisted in him being able to further develop his talent.  He was apprenticed by Andrea Sacchi and built a strong friendship with Giovan Bellori, who was a big art collector and influence on the art market in Rome during this period.

Some of his work was commissioned by the Pope - this is one of his earlier pieces of work in a long career.  He would proceed to large frescos later in his career under the commission of the popes from Rome to France.  The majority of his work had a religious theme, although he also completed portraits of important figures in Rome at the time.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Two Trinities by Bartolome Murillo

The Two Trinities (1682) by Bartolome Murillo
New Zealand 3d Stamp Issued Christmas 1965
National Gallery, London
Murillo (1617-1682) specialised in religious paintings as one of two leading artists in 17th Century Spain - the other being Velazquez.  This painting features two trinities - the first being the Holy Trinity of father, son and ghost, while the other is the earthly trinity of Mary, Joseph and Jesus - the holy family.  The light and mood in this painting is very striking.

Murillo faced extensive personal loss during his long life.  He outlived three wives and all but three of his nine children.  He also survived the plague that hit Seville in 1649, wiping out half the population of the city.  No wonder his work included heavenly clouds and cherubs, as it must have been a welcome way to avoid all the death and sadness on earth!

Another of Murillo's works features in a UK stamp issue in 1967: Madonna in the Clouds.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Holy Family with A Shepherd by Titian

Holy Family with a Shepherd (1510) by Titian (1490-1576)
New Zealand 2d Stamp Issued 1963
National Gallery, London
New Zealand postal authorities selected a third painting from the National Gallery in London for inclusion in the Christmas stamps during the 1960s.  This one was in a larger format to do justice to the larger size of the underlying oil on canvas painting by Titian.  A shepherd is in adoration of the Madonna and child.  

Other Titian works that have been used in stamps:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Madonna in Prayer by Sassoferrato

Madonna in Prayer (1609-1684) by Sassoferrato (1650)
New Zealand 2d Stamp Issued 1962 Christmas
National Gallery London

This work is rich in colour and volume with the heavy draperies of the virgin.  Sassoferrato was heavily influenced by Raphael.  Most of his work consisted of devotional religious paintings, many of which were repeated.  He was trained Umbria by his father, prior to reaching the peak of his career in Rome.

The stamp was very popular and it was awarded the Philatelic Societies of San Francisco award for the most beautiful stamp of the year.

Stamps that include works by Raphael:
Madonna and the Goldfinch (1505)
The Large Cowper Madonna (1507)
The Virgin and Child (1508)
The School of Athens (1511)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Adoration of the Magi by Albercht Durer

Adoration of the Magi (1504) - Albrecht Durer (1471-1528)
New Zealand 2d Stamp Issued 1961 Christmas
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

This work was created by Durer during a time when he was staying in Nuremberg.  The painting is oil on wood so it is thought to have been housed in a church in earlier times.  Durer is considered to be the most important painter of the Northern Renaissance.

Much of his work has religious meaning, including a work of "Adam" which featured on a stamp that was issued by Rwanda.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Adoration of the Shepherds by a pupil of Rembrandt

Adoration of the Shepherds (1646) by a pupil of Rembrandt
2d Christmas Stamp Issued New Zealand 1960
National Gallery in London

This painting was re-examined in 2009 by the National Gallery and it has been confirmed that it is highly likely that it was not completed by Rembrandt, but by a pupil of his.  The layering of paint was found to be quite different to other works by Rembrandt when the painting was studied in detail with modern scientific equipment during the 2009 clean.  Another Rembrandt painting of the same period shows a very similar scene in a reverse format.  Details of this recent discovery are on the National Gallery website.

This was also the first Christmas stamp to be issued in New Zealand - at first there was concern that the postmarking of used stamps with a religious painting may not be appropriate to Christian sensibilities.