By Michael Baadke
The Florentine Madonna and Child Christmas forever stamp will be issued nationwide Oct. 18, welcomed with a noon first-day ceremony at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, 2 Massachusetts Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. The ceremony is free and open to the public.
The Christmas stamp, issued in a double-sided pane of 20 described by the United States Postal Service as a booklet, features a detail from the 15th-century tempera-on-poplar panel painting in the Widener Collection at the National Gallery of Art. The artist is unknown, identified simply as “a follower of Fra Filippo Lippi and Pesellino.”
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The ceremony was originally announced as taking place Oct. 11 at the National Gallery of Art, but the Postal Service announced a change of date and venue on Sept. 22. The rescheduling was reported on Linns.com on Sept. 22.
The National Gallery of Art obtained the painting in 1942, described as “inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park.”
The artist portrayed the Madonna and the standing infant Jesus in front of a tangle of flowering roses in pink, white and red. Mary holds the baby delicately with both hands.
The stamp design adds a silver frame all around, with the inscription “CHRISTMAS” in the frame across the top, and “15th c. Florentine, National Gallery of Art” along the bottom. “USA” is superimposed in white in the upper left corner of the painting detail, and “FOREVER” is printed in white reading down from the upper right corner.
The USPS announcement notes the availability of a die-cut press sheet of 160 stamps (eight double-sided panes of 20) for $75.20. The press sheet quantity issued was not revealed.
The stamps are offset-printed by Ashton Potter USA, with 300 million stamps issued.
Technical details and first-day cancel ordering information for the new Madonna and Child forever stamp are below.
FIRST DAY— Oct. 18, 2016; city— Washington, D.C., and nationwide.
DESIGN: artist— existing art by a follower of Fra Filippo Lippi and Pesellino; art director and designer— William J. Gicker, Washington, D.C.; typographer— Greg Breeding, Charlottesville, Va. modeler— Joseph Sheeran.
PRINTING: process— offset with microprinting; printer and processor— Ashton Potter USA Ltd., Williamsville, N.Y.; press— Muller A76; inks— cyan, magenta, yellow, black, Pantone Matching System 8003 silver; paper— nonphosphored Type III with block tagging; gum— self-adhesive; issue quantity— 300 million stamps; format— double-sided pane of 20 from 880-subject cylinder; size— 0.77 inches by 1.05 inches (image); 0.91 inches by 1.19 inches (overall), 5.76 inches by 2.38 inches (pane size); 23.29 inches by 4.76 inches (press sheet); plate numbers— “P” followed by five single digits; marginal markings— Header “Christmas — Florentine Madonna and Child,“ “©2015 USPS,” plate numbers, promotional text, “Twenty First-class Forever Stamps,” bar code; USPS item No.— 681304.
Standard ordering instructions apply. Collectors requesting first-day cancels are encouraged to purchase their own stamps and affix them to envelopes. The first-day cover envelopes should be addressed for return (a removable label may be used), and mailed in a larger envelope addressed to Florentine Madonna and Child Stamp, Stamp Fulfillment Services, Cancellation Services, 8300 NE Underground Drive, Pillar 210, Kansas City, MO 64144-9998.
Requests for first-day cancels must be postmarked by Dec. 11.
The Postal Service’s uncacheted first-day cover for the Florentine Madonna and Child stamp is item 681316 at 91¢. USPS item numbers for stamps and FDCs also appear in Linn’s 2016 U.S. Stamp Program.