US Stamps

Born May 14: Thomas Gainsborough

May 14, 2015, 12 AM

Though the birthdate of English artist Thomas Gainsborough is sometimes given as May 14, 1727, the same date is frequently cited as the date of his christening, and it might be that Gainsborough was actually born on an earlier date.

While known primarily for his portraiture, Gainsborough was also a landscape artist, and it has been said that he much preferred creating landscapes to portraits.

However, it is his 1794 portrait of Mrs. John Douglas that appears on a 10¢ stamp from a set of eight that commemorates the founding of the Universal Postal Union and its beginning with the 1874 Treaty of Berne (Scott 1536).

Four stamps in the set are inscribed "Universal Postal Union 1874-1974," and the other four, including the stamp with the portrait by Gainsborough, bear the inscription "Letters mingle souls."

The portrait on the stamp was once in the collection of James Armand de Rothschild, who bequeathed it to the National Trust, where it resides today at Waddesdon Manor.

Gainsborough's name on the stamp is printed below the lower right corner of the portrait.

Though Gainsborough's subjects included King George III, his portrait known as The Blue Boy, thought to show the son of a wealthy merchant, is perhaps his best known painting.

Gainsborough died in London in 1788.