World Stamps

Denise McCarty

U.N.'s new Knotted Gun stamp designs

September 25, 2018 08:00 AM

  • Explorer and motivational speaker Johan Ernst Nilson painted flags on his version of the Knotted Gun sculpture, shown on the €0.90 stamp.
  • A 1¢ definitive for use from the post office at U.N. headquarters in New York City’s features Martin Morck’s illustration of the original Non-Violence sculpture by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reutersward.
  • The United Nations Postal Administration is issuing three definitive stamps Oct. 2 showing versions of the sculpture Non-Violence, nicknamed the “Knotted Gun.” The €2.30 stamp shows Ringo Starr’s interpretation of the sculpture created for a charity art project.

By Denise McCarty

New stamps from the United Nations Postal Administration have a connection to two of the four members of the Beatles: John Lennon and Ringo Starr.

The United States Postal Service recently honored Lennon on forever stamps issued Sept. 7 in its Music Icons series.

The UNPA is issuing three definitive stamps Oct. 2 featuring versions of a bronze sculpture created as a tribute to Lennon, who was shot and killed Dec. 8, 1980.

Called Non-Violence, this bronze sculpture of a 45-caliber revolver with its barrel tied in a knot is nicknamed the “Knotted Gun,” and the UNPA is calling the definitive stamp issue Knotted Gun.

It was sculpted by Carl Fredrik Reutersward, a Swedish artist and friend of Lennon and Yoko Ono. The government of Luxembourg donated it to the United Nations in 1988, and it was placed outside the entrance of the U.N. headquarters in New York City.

More than 30 other Non-Violence sculptures by Reutersward have been placed in strategic locations worldwide, according to the UNPA.

Over the years, the sculpture has become a symbol of the peace and nonviolence movement.

Two of the three U.N. definitive stamps show different interpretations of this sculpture that were created as part of the Non-Violence Art Project of the Non-Violence Project Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes peace and social change through education.

The Knotted Gun interpretation Ringo Starr created for this project is depicted on the €2.30 stamp for use from the U.N. post office at the Vienna International Center in Vienna, Austria. This stamp also includes his name at bottom right.

Starr unveiled his sculpture Dec. 8, 2011 (the 31st anniversary of Lennon’s death), at the Gibson Guitar studio in London. The colorful sculpture includes the word “Imagine” above the trigger, a reference to the 1971 song by Lennon.

In a report about the unveiling for the British newspaper The Independent, Adam Sherwin quoted Starr: “I just did my artwork on my iPad, put it on my computer and transferred it on to paper with the outline of the gun.”

In the article, Starr congratulated Charlie Anderson, the artist who did the actual paintwork for the sculpture.

Among the other celebrities who participated in this project with their own interpretations of the Knotted Gun were Ono, Paul McCartney and Muhammad Ali.

In addition, Swedish explorer and motivational speaker Johan Ernst Nilson created the sculpture illustrated on the €0.90 definitive.

According to the UNPA, he said: “I have explored our blue planet for 25 years now, I’ve been to 170 countries and I’ve seen the most amazing places. But I’ve also seen a lot of wars and conflicts.

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“This is something that has been bothering me over the years. We are all humans. We have the same basic needs, values and dreams. Why can’t we live in peace as one?

“So when Non-Violence Project asked me to become ambassador and to design my own version of the sculpture, then it was clear to me: My sculpture must be painted with all U.N. flags as a message of peace and a reminder that we are all on this planet together. One world … ”

Like the €2.30 denomination, this stamp also is for use from the Vienna International Center.

The third definitive is a 1¢ stamp for use on mail sent from the post office at U.N. headquarters in New York City. The UNPA reports that the design shows an illustration of Reutersward’s Non-Violence sculpture by Martin Morck, a Swedish-born stamp engraver and designer.

The 1¢ stamp is smaller than the other two. It measures 30 millimeters by 26mm, perforated gauge 13 by 13¼, while the two U.N./Geneva stamps are each 50mm by 30mm, perforated gauge 14 by 14½.

Joh. Enschede of the Netherlands printed the stamps, with the 1¢ stamp in sheets of 50, and the other two in separate sheets of 20. The initial print quantities are 600,000 1¢ stamps; 300,000 €0.90 stamps; and 260,000 €2.30 stamps. As definitive stamps, they can go back to press for future printings.

The printed process is described as “offset lithography plus hexachome.”

The UNPA isn’t the only postal administration to feature Reutersward’s sculpture on stamps. His native Sweden depicted it on a commemorative stamp issued in 1995 for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations (Scott 2132).

For more information about the U.N. Knotted Gun stamps, visit http://unstamps.un.org; email unpanyinquiries@un.org; telephone 800-234-8672; fax 212-963-9854; or write to UNPA, Box 5900, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163-5900.