32¢ Madonna and Child
Issue Date: October 15, 1998
City: Washington, DC
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Lithographed
Perforations: 10.1 x 9.9
Continuing its annual tradition, the U.S. Postal Service is commemorating a work of art – the Florentine Madonna and Child – on this year’s holiday stamp.
The image on the stamp is a 15th-century sculpture created by an unknown artist in Florence, Italy. The painted and gilded terra cotta statue portrays the Christ Child being held by his mother. It is in the Italian Renaissance Gallery at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
The first artistic representation of the Madonna was created by Saint Luke. But the Virgin Mary and Child didn’t become accepted symbols of the Christian faith until the year 431 A.D. From then until the 13th century, paintings of the Madonna were stiff images set against gold backgrounds.
More personal depictions of the Madonna and Child were created during the 15th century. One of the most common styles of the Madonna from this period features her with a serious expression, looking away from the child. The artists of this time also began creating works portraying more people and scenery.
By the 17th century, the Madonna theme became less popular with artists. However, works incorporating this image continued to be produced into the 20th century.