Stamps of 2023: Belgium (January 2023)

On January 23, 2023, the Belgian Post Group — commonly known as bpost — will issue 12 new stamp designs, of which eleven were publicized in late December 2022. The twelfth, commemorating the 50th birth anniversary of HM Queen Mathilde, was unveiled on her actual birthday — January 20. Ten of the stamps are in two miniature sheets of five stamps each.

Jan. 23, 2023

HM the Queen’s 50th Birthday

Mathilde Marie Christine Ghislaine d’Udekem d’Acoz was born on January 20, 1973, at Edith Cavell Hospital in Uccle, Belgium. Her parents are Count and Countess Patrick d’Udekem d’Acoz. Mathilde has three sisters: Marie-Alix, Elisabeth and Hélène, and one brother Charles-Henri. Upon Mathilde’s marriage to Prince Philippe of Belgium, the Duke of Brabant in 1999, King Albert II of Belgium elevated the d’Udekem d’Acoz family from the baronial to the comital rank, hereditary in the male lineage. Upon the accession of her husband, Prince Philippe, Duke of Brabant to the throne of Belgium she became the first queen consort of native Belgian nationality.

The announcement of Mathilde’s engagement to the Belgian heir-apparent Prince Philippe came as a surprise to the country. Mathilde married Philippe on December 4, 1999, in Brussels, civilly at the Brussels Town Hall and religiously at the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. Mathilde’s bridal gown was designed by Édouard Vermeulen.

The stamp marking Queen Mathilde’s 50th birthday was designed by Geert Wille. The design was unveiled on January 20, 2023, and the stamp issued as the first of the year on January 23. The stamp bears a “1” no-value indicator which pays the domestic letter rate and is currently €1.16. It was issued in a sheet of 10, printed using offset lithography by BPost Philately & Stamps Printing.

Jan. 23, 2023

The Year of Art Nouveau in Brussels

In 1893, architect Victor Horta put the finishing touches to Tassel House, the founding work of the Art Nouveau movement in Brussels. The impressive modernity of its façade and its sumptuous interiors – all in stained glass, mosaics and wrought iron – have marked the history of architecture. 130 years later, Brussels plans to take advantage of this anniversary to celebrate Art Nouveau in all its diversity and stake its claim as the capital of this international artistic movement.

Art Nouveau Brussels 2023

Art Nouveau is an international style of art, architecture, and applied art, especially the decorative arts. The style is known by different names in different languages: Jugendstil in German, Stile Liberty in Italian, Modernisme in Catalan, and also known as the Modern Style in English. It was popular between 1890 and 1910 during the Belle Époque period, and was a reaction against the academic art, eclecticism and historicism of 19th century architecture and decoration. It was often inspired by natural forms such as the sinuous curves of plants and flowers. Other characteristics of Art Nouveau were a sense of dynamism and movement, often given by asymmetry or whiplash lines, and the use of modern materials, particularly iron, glass, ceramics and later concrete, to create unusual forms and larger open spaces.

The first Art Nouveau houses and interior decoration appeared in Brussels in the 1890s, in the architecture and interior design of houses designed by Paul Hankar, Henry van de Velde, and especially Victor Horta, whose Hôtel Tassel was completed in 1893. It moved quickly to Paris, where it was adapted by Hector Guimard, who saw Horta’s work in Brussels and applied the style for the entrances of the new Paris Métro. It reached its peak at the 1900 Paris International Exposition, which introduced the Art Nouveau work of artists such as Louis Tiffany. It appeared in graphic arts in the posters of Alphonse Mucha, and the glassware of René Lalique and Émile Gallé.

From Belgium and France, Art Nouveau spread to the rest of Europe, taking on different names and characteristics in each country. It often appeared not only in capitals, but also in rapidly growing cities that wanted to establish artistic identities (Turin and Palermo in Italy; Glasgow in Scotland; Munich and Darmstadt in Germany), as well as in centers of independence movements (Helsinki in Finland, then part of the Russian Empire; Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain).

By 1914, and with the beginning of the First World War, Art Nouveau was largely exhausted. In the 1920s, it was replaced as the dominant architectural and decorative art style by Art Deco and then Modernism. The Art Nouveau style began to receive more positive attention from critics in the late 1960s, with a major exhibition of the work of Hector Guimard at the Museum of Modern Art in 1970.

The early Art Nouveau designers in Brussels created not only art and architecture but also furniture, glassware, carpets, and even clothing and other decoration to match. Some of Brussels’ municipalities, such as Schaerbeek, Etterbeek, Ixelles, and Saint-Gilles, were developed during the heyday of Art Nouveau and have many buildings in that style. After 1900, the style gradually became more formal and geometric. The final Art Nouveau landmark in Brussels was the Stoclet Palace by the Austrian-Moravian architect Josef Hoffmann (1905–1911), now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which marked the transition to a more geometric and formal style and the birth of Art Deco and early modernism.

In spite of Brussels’ city planning free-for-all between the end of the Second World War and the late 1960s, Brussels still has more than 500 Art Nouveau buildings.

Myriam Voz designed the Year of Art Nouveau in Brussels 2023 stamps for bpost which will be issued on January 23. The miniature sheet portrays the interior of the Hôtel Tassel, a town house in Brussels, Belgium, designed by Victor Horta for the scientist and professor Emile Tassel and built from 1892 to 1893. It is generally considered the first true Art Nouveau building, because of its highly innovative plan and its ground-breaking use of materials and decoration. It is located at 6, rue Paul-Emile Janson/Paul-Emile Jansonstraat. The photographs on the five “1 Europe” stamps are credited to KMKG-MRAH-RMAH and depict examples of Nouveau decorative art which

drew inspiration from both organic and geometric forms, evolving elegant designs that united flowing, natural forms resembling the stems and blossoms of plants. The emphasis on linear contours took precedence over color, which was usually represented with hues such as muted greens, browns, yellows, and blues.


Jan. 23, 2023

Great Spa Towns of Europe: Spa

Spa is a city and municipality of Wallonia located in the province of Liège, Belgium, whose name became an eponym for mineral baths with supposed curative properties. It is situated in a valley in the Ardennes mountains 35 kilometers (22 miles) south-east of Liège and 45 kilometers (28 miles) south-west of Aachen. In 2006, Spa had a population of 10,543 and an area of 39.85 square kilometers (15.39 square miles).

The fountain of the Casino gardens in Spa, Belgium, photographed on May 27, 2005.

Spa is one of Belgium’s most popular tourist destinations, being renowned for its natural mineral springs and production of “Spa” mineral water, which is exported worldwide. The motor-racing Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, just south of the nearby village of Francorchamps, also hosts the annual Formula One Belgian Grand Prix and various endurance races such as the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. The world’s first beauty pageant, the Concours de Beauté, was held in Spa on September 19, 1888. The town also hosted the Tour de France on July 5, 2010, when stage 2 of the race ended there.

The Casino at Spa, Belgium, photographed on May 27, 2005.

In 2021, Spa became part of the transnational UNESCO World Heritage Site under the name “Great Spa Towns of Europe”, inscribed for its famous mineral springs and its architectural testimony to the rise of European bathing culture in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Great Spa Towns of Europe transnational World Heritage Site consists of 11 spa towns across seven European countries. The spa and bathing culture led to the construction of elaborate bath houses which would often include gardens, casinos, theatres, and villas surrounding the springs and the bath houses.

Many of the famous mineral springs in Spa are located on a hillside south of the town. In total, there are more than 300 cold mineral springs in Spa and its surroundings, classified into two types: light mineral waters and natural sparkling waters (called ‘pouhons‘ locally). The light mineral waters come from recent rainfall on the Malchamps Moor, roughly 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) south-west of the town and are filtered through layers of peat, quartz, and phyllite. In contrast, the pouhon waters come from rainfall that may be decades old, having percolated through calcareous rocks hundreds of meters underground.

As the site of cold springs with alleged healing properties, Spa has been frequented as a “water-taking” place since classical antiquity. Pliny the Elder (died 79 CE) noted, “In Tongrie, country of Gaul, there is a famous source, whose water, while sparkling bubbles, a ferruginous taste that is, however, feel that when we finished drinking. This water purges the body, cures fevers and dispels calculous affections.” The term Spa has since become eponymous with any place having a natural water source that is believed to possess special health-giving properties, known as a spa.

The spa town grew in the Middle Ages, in the oldest iron and steel center of Liège Province. The ban Spa was created around 1335 and included two urban concentrations: vilhe of Creppe and vilhe Spas, 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away. Prior to the exploitation of mineral water, the steel industry developed communication lines, which made it possible to develop the spa town.

As early as 1547, Agustino, physician to the King of England, Henry VIII, stayed at Spa and helped give knowledge to the world of the value of the Spa water. In 1559, Gilbert Lymborh wrote of “acid fountains of the Ardennes forest and primarily those located in Spa”. It was translated into Latin, Italian and Spanish. In July 1565, the gentry of the provinces met in Spa under the pretext of taking the waters. At the hotel “Aux Armes of England”, those present agreed to oppose the edicts of Philip II as austere and intolerant; this led to the historic 1566 “Compromise of Nobles”.

In 1654, the exiled pretender to the English throne, Prince Charles, stayed at Spa, which made the place even more famous. A postal system between Spa and the outside world was established in 1699. Since the 18th century, casinos have been located in the town.

During World War I, Spa operated as an important German convalescent hospital town between 1914 and 1917. The general headquarters of Kaiser Wilhelm II at Spa was, in 1918, the last place where he resided before his abdication due to the German surrender. In July 1920, the town hosted the Spa Conference, a meeting of the Supreme Council. German delegates were invited to this to discuss war reparations. World War II saw Spa reoccupied by the Germans, but the town escaped the Battle of the Bulge in 1945 that stopped, luckily for Spa, just at its gates.

The Marshall Plan helped Belgium to recover quickly. In the 1950s and 1960s, mass tourism gradually developed, diminishing Spa’s reliance on the elite as customers. These were decades of social tourism as well, with an attendance of more and more numerous Flemish and Dutch customers, while the Walloons went en masse to the Belgian coast in Flanders. Relaxation tourism replaced the thermal aspect of Spa.

On May 17, 1983, to mark the 400th anniversary of the export of Spa waters, King Baudouin visited the new facilities of the Spa Monopole SA, the Henrijean Hydrology Institute and the Thermal Establishment. A special train from Brussels to Spa conveyed the morning delegates and foreign and Belgian journalists. Then, arriving by helicopter, Baudouin landed in the Park fermière company and visited the city, its tourist facilities and spa.

The Coat of Arms for Spa is a stylized pouhon housed in a neoclassical monument to the covering surrounded by a protective wall opened its facade. The monument is topped by a blue banner bearing the “Spa-Pouhon” inscriptions. “Argent masonry money pouhon of sand topped with gold-SPA Pouhon inscriptions on a blue background.” The city colors are yellow and blue. The stylized pouhon is inspired by the monument that housed the pouhon Peter the Great until 1820.

Under the Ancien Régime, the shield was commonly used in spa towns. It was customary for the spa guests to leave their arms at the hotel where he had stayed in recognition of the benefits of the waters. At Spa, many hotels have inscriptions like “In the Arms of England”, “the Duke of Orleans,” “To the King of Poland”, etc.

The Great Spas of Europe: Spa miniature sheet containing five stamps was designed by Geert Wille and printed by BPost Philately & Stamps Printing using offset lithography. It will be released on January 23, 2023.

Jan. 23, 2023

Anne-Mie van Kerckhoven “Klok”

Anne-Mie van Kerckhoven is a Belgian artist whose work involves painting, drawing, computer art and video art. Also known as AMVK, she was born on December 5, 1951, in Antwerp, Belgium and lives in Antwerp and Berlin. In 1981 she founded the noise band Club Moral with Danny Devos. Since 1982 she has been represented by Zeno X Gallery in Antwerp and since 1999 by Galerie Barbara Thumm in Berlin. In 2003 she was awarded the Flanders’ Prize for Visual Arts.

In 2005 the HeadNurse-files was published. By means of installation shots, film stills and artistic images, this book presents an overview of the projects’ development from 1995 to 2004. In 2006 she was awarded a DAAD stipendium to spend one year in Berlin. In 2022 she received an honorary doctor degree from the University of Antwerp.

Anne-Mie van Kerckhoven has been fascinated for a long time with the representation in the mass media of images of women, of interiors, of the kinetic powers of any kind of language. She investigates supra-moral connections in contemporary society between sex and technology. Her work connects different knowledge systems, explores the areas of the unconscious, and looks at moral aberrations or the obscene from a female point of view.

The “1” NVI stamp in this issue was designed by Anne-Mie van Kerckhoven and depicts her 2013 work “Klok” (Inv. no. 20130514A). The drawing measures 27.6 x 35.5 cm and was created with pastel, color pencil and letraset on paper. The sheet design is by Myriam Voz, containing ten copies of the stamp and printed by BPost Philately & Stamps Printing using offset lithography.

Jan. 23, 2023

Red-Knot Sandpiper

The red knot or just knot (Calidris canutus) is a medium-sized shorebird which breeds in tundra and the Arctic Cordillera in the far north of Canada, Europe, and Russia. It is a large member of the Calidris sandpipers, second only to the great knot. Six subspecies are recognized. Their diet varies according to season; arthropods and larvae are the preferred food items at the breeding grounds, while various hard-shelled mollusks are consumed at other feeding sites at other times. North American breeders migrate to coastal areas in Europe and South America, while the Eurasian populations winter in Africa, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and New Zealand. This species forms enormous flocks when not breeding.

The red knot was first described by Carl Linnaeus in his landmark 1758 10th edition of Systema Naturae as Tringa canutus. One theory is that it gets its name and species epithet from King Cnut; the name would refer to the knot’s foraging along the tide line and the story of Cnut and the tide. There appears to be no historical foundation for this etymology. Another etymology is that the name is onomatopoeic, based on the bird’s grunting call note.

André Buzin (drawing) and Myriam Voz (layout) designed the Red Knot Sandpiper self-adhesive stamp issued by bpost on January 23. These were printed by the Philately & Stamps Printing division on FSC Sticker paper using offset lithography in booklets of five stamps. The stamps measure 40mm x 30mm while the size of the booklet is 90mm x 130mm. They have die-cut perforations of 11.5 and are intended for the registered mail rate.

One thought on “Stamps of 2023: Belgium (January 2023)

  1. Pingback: Stamps of 2023: Monthly Wrap-Up (January) | Mark Joseph Jochim

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