By Fred Baumann
The post office of Canada issued the world’s first Christmas stamps on Dec. 7, 1898 (Scott 85-86).
On Nov. 1, Canada Post issued its 2016 Christmas stamps, a seasonal quartet reproducing a Renaissance Nativity scene and whimsical contemporary illustrations by one of Canada’s most prolific modern stamp designers, Rolf Harder.
The Master of the Castello traditional Christmas booklet stamp is a “P” permanent-rate die-cut self-adhesive that will indefinitely pay the rate for delivery of a standard domestic letter within Canada (currently 85¢).
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The artist was an anonymous minor Italian luminary of the mid-15th century, a specialist in Nativity scenes known only by his association with another of his 30 or so attributed works as “Master of the Castello Nativity.”
In its Details publication for collectors, Canada Post said, “The intensity of the colours in this and other of the master’s works comes from multiple layers of tempera.”
Tempura is a fast-drying mixture of pigment and a water-soluble medium, such as egg.
As noted for last year’s traditional Christmas stamp reproducing the painting The Adoration of the Magi by 16th-century artist Adriaen Isenbrandt, this year’s Virgin and Child is from a major donation made to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts by Michal and Renata Hornstein. That permanent-rate stamp was issued Nov. 2, 2015 (Scott 2880).
Polish Jews who narrowly survived the Holocaust, the Hornsteins barely escaped with help from sympathetic civilians through occupied Czechoslovakia and Hungary; they married in Rome in 1946.
Encouraged by the Canadian ambassador to Italy they had befriended, the Hornsteins moved in 1951 to Montreal. After a successful career in real estate development, they generously donated 70 Old Master paintings valued at about $75 million to the museum in 2012 to say thank-you to the nation that had become their home.
Virgin and Child by the Master of the Castello Nativity was photographed by Brian Merrett, and the image was made available courtesy of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Like last year’s stamp, it was designed by Louise Methe.
Not unlike the Hornsteins, German-born Harder arrived in Montreal after World War II and worked his way to success, acclaim and prosperity in Canada as an outstanding graphic artist.
According to Canada Post, among his accomplishments he designed more than 60 Canadian stamps, chiefly in the last decades of the 20th century, including a series of blocks of four on prehistoric life in Canada and booklets on famous Canadian forts. Harder died in 2013.
Designed by Helene L’Heureux from original Christmas card illustrations by Harder, the Christmas stamps were developed under the art direction of his daughter, Vivi Harder.
Canada Post announces 2017 commemorative stamp program: “Dear Collectors, 2017 is going to be a big year,” writes Jim Phillips, Canada Post’s stamp services director.
Self-adhesive stamps in three designs are available in domestic permanent-rate booklets of 12 for use in Canada, and in single-sided six-stamp booklets priced at $1.20 per stamp for use on cards and letters to the United States and at $2.50 per stamp for use on mail elsewhere.
Canada Post described the designs as “simple vignettes set in a winter wonderland inhabited only by Santa Claus, a Christmas tree and a dove with an olive branch, they exemplify the minimalist style and creative joy associated with this renowned Canadian designer.“
The permanent-rate stamp depicts a triangular Santa Claus and a decorated tree. The $1.20 stamp shows Santa’s hat atop an evergreen, and the $2.50 denomination pictures a white dove with an olive branch flying to a Christmas tree. Each scene also includes falling snow.
Canadian Bank Note printed all of the Christmas stamps by lithography: the Madonna and Child stamp using six colors including a special gold ink, and the contemporary designs using five colors.
The Madonna and Child stamp measures 26 millimeters by 32mm. A total of 7.8 million stamps are available in 650,000 booklets of 12 for $10.20 Canadian (Canada Post 113834), and on 9,000 single-stamp official first-day covers with stylized stars and a Montreal star postmark for $1.85 (No. 413834131).
The three Rolf Harder contemporary designs are 22mm by 24mm each. A perforated souvenir sheet with moisture-activated gum and one each of the three different contemporary designs measures 85mm by 54mm.
The Canada Post order numbers are 113835 ($10.50) for the permanent-rate booklet of 12; 113836 ($7.20) for the booklet of six $1.20 stamps; and 113837 for the booklet of six $2.50 stamps. The total numbers of stamps produced were 9.6 million of the permanent-rate stamps and 2.1 million of both the U.S. and international-rate stamps.
There were 110,000 souvenir sheets produced, and the Canada Post order number is 403837145 ($4.55). In addition, 9,000 official FDCs bearing the souvenir sheet with a dove postmark and a simple olive branch cachet are No. 403837144 ($5.55).
The new Christmas stamps and related items are available online. Stamps and FDCs are available by mail order from Canada Post Customer Service, Box 90022, 2701 Riverside Drive, Ottawa, ON K1V 1J8 Canada; or by telephone from the United States or Canada at 800-565-4362, and from other countries at 902-863-6550.
Canada’s stamps and stamp products also are available from many new-issue stamp dealers, and from Canada Post’s agent in the United States: Interpost, Box 420, Hewlett, NY 11557.