Christmas Stamps 2022: Poland

On October 20, Poland released a single 2022 water-activated Christmas stamp picturing a version of the Madonna and Child, an iconic image seen throughout the history of Western art that holds significant value in terms of stylistic innovations of religious subject matter and has continued to evolve for centuries. The representation of Mary, with her child Jesus, are central icons for both the Catholic and Orthodox churches. The word is from Italian ma donna ‘my lady’. The Madonna and Child is very prevalent in Christian iconography, divided into many traditional subtypes especially in Eastern Orthodox iconography, often known after the location of a notable icon of the type or descriptive of the depicted posture.

The term Madonna in the sense of “picture or statue of the Virgin Mary” entered English usage in the 17th century, primarily in reference to works of the Italian Renaissance. In an Eastern Orthodox context, such images are typically known as Theotokos. “Madonna” may be generally used of representations of Mary, with or without the infant Jesus, is the focus and central figure of the image, possibly flanked or surrounded by angels or saints. Other types of Marian imagery have a narrative context, depicting scenes from the Life of the Virgin, e.g. the Annunciation to Mary, are not typically called “Madonna”.

The earliest representation of the Madonna and Child may be the wall painting in the Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome, in which the seated Madonna suckles the Child, who turns his head to gaze at the spectator. The classical “Madonna” or “Theotokos” imagery develops from the 5th century, as Marian devotion rose to great importance after the Council of Ephesus formally affirmed her status as “Mother of God or Theotokos (“God-bearer”) in 431. The Theotokos iconography as it developed in the 6th to 8th century rose to great importance in the high medieval period (12th to 14th centuries) both in the Eastern Orthodox and in the Latin spheres.

According to a tradition first recorded in the 8th century, and still strong in the Eastern Church, the iconography of images of Mary goes back to a portrait drawn from life by Luke the Evangelist, with a number of icons (such as the Panagia Portaitissa) claimed to either represent this original icon or to be a direct copy of it. In the Western tradition, depictions of the Madonna were greatly diversified by Renaissance masters such as Duccio, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Giovanni Bellini, Caravaggio, and Rubens (and further by certain modernists such as Salvador Dalí and Henry Moore), while Eastern Orthodox iconography adheres more closely to the inherited traditional types.

Poland’s 2022 Christmas stamp was designed by the in-house team at Poczta Polska S.A. and was printed in sheets of 100 using photogravure on fluorescent paper by Polska Wytwórnia Papierów Wartościowych. The total press run was 2,000,000 stamps. They measure 25.5 x 31.25 mm each and are comb-perforated in a gauge of 11¾ x 11½. The denomination of PRIORYTETOWY S had a face value of PLN 4.80 on the date of issue.

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