For centuries, arguably one of the most popular subjects of painters, sculptors and artists has been the Madonna and Child. The Virgin Mary and infant Jesus have been immortalized countless times by old and new masters alike---Botticelli, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Gaugin, Matisse and Dali, to name only a few.
The term "Madonna," which is rooted in Italian medieval times, means noble or otherwise important woman and is used commonly in Western Christian art tradition to refer to depictions of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
On November 1, 2006, Canada Post will issue a single domestic rate (51¢) stamp featuring a painting of the Madonna and Child by Quebec-born artist Antoine-Sébastien Falardeau (1822-1889).
When Falardeau painted his version of the Madonna and Child---Vierge à l'Enfant---in 1857, he did so in the style of Italian Baroque artist Carlo Dolci (1616-1687). Falardeau, who was considered one of art's most famous "copyists," was so skilled at reproducing other painters' works of art that experts were often needed to differentiate his copies from the originals. Although Vierge à l'Enfant is not a direct copy of Dolci's work, it is an excellent example of Falardeau's ability to copy another artist's style. Today, Falardeau's Vierge à l'Enfant---and many other of his original paintings---are stored at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec in Québec City.
For Madonna and Child stamp designer Pierre Fontaine, the challenge of working with Falardeau's oval-shaped painting was to preserve the original fullness and essence of an Italian Baroque-style painting, while fitting it into the framework of a contemporary stamp. "I realized that it was not possible to use the full dimensions of the original artwork, so I opted to crop the image in a way that integrated the essential elements of Vierge à l'Enfant, and made Mary and the infant Jesus the centrepieces of the stamp," says Fontaine.
"What's interesting to note is that Mr. Fontaine does not modify Falardeau's image in any way," says Danielle Trottier, Manager of Stamp Design and Production at Canada Post. "Tones, lighting quality and other aspects remain untouched, respectfully preserving the integrity of the painting. The combination of old and new elements, such as the contemporary font, makes the stamp a modern and unique piece of Canadian philately."
Fontaine's design elements complement the colours and tone of the original image through the use of gold and red to highlight the type and denomination, respectively. The gold picks up the tones of Falardeau's painting, while the red brings out Canada's national colour and one of Canada Post's trademark colours as well.
Available in early November, just in time for the holiday season, this beautiful Madonna and Child stamp will add a touch of elegance to Christmas cards and letters, and collections.