The Art of Christmas Stamps

Works from the National Gallery of Art
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"Madonna and Child with Angels," after 1479, by Hans Memling, oil on panel. Andrew W. Mellon Collection, National Gallery of Art

Virtual Exhibit
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Left: First US Christmas stamp issued November 1st in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Scott 1205)
Right: A rejected design, or essay

The large volume of mail has always kept the postal system busy during the winter holidays. In 1962, the first Christmas stamps were officially issued, and have since become a regular and much anticipated occurrence. Since 1970, two general themes of Christmas stamps have been issued yearly: one "traditional" and one "contemporary." The traditional stamps tend to be based on religious artwork, while the contemporary stamps usually have a secular subject. Many of the artworks that have inspired the traditional stamps are in the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, D.C. To showcase this tradition, the NGA and the National Postal Museum (NPM) have partnered to create this online exhibit, which explores the art behind US Christmas stamps.

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