Works from the National Gallery of Art

Lorenzo Lotto - The Nativity

Painting of a nativity scene. A crucifix is shown on the wall in the background.
“The Nativity,” 1523, by Lorenzo Lotto, oil on panel,
Samuel H. Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art
Refer to caption
1970 Christmas stamp issued November 5th in Washington, DC (Scott 1414)

Returning to the religious theme used between 1966-1968, Howard C. Mildner designed this stamp based on a sixteenth century nativity scene painted by Lorenzo Lotto. Postmaster general Winton M. Blount approved the stamp design, which was the first of many Christmas stamps to follow depicting an Italian Renaissance work. Unlike the previous few engraved Christmas stamps, this 1970 issue was printed using photogravure, which prints tiny dots only rather than dots, lines and solid sections. Colors and forms blend together more smoothly using the photogravure method, but it also results in less detail. The rays emanating from the child’s head are obscured, and his remarkably voluptuous legs are blurred in the small format. The composition was cropped slightly at the sides to fit better onto the stamp, so most of the context of the original painting remains, if miniscule and hazy. One detail excluded from the stamp design is the crucifix, foreshadowing Jesus’ death to come. The inclusion of the crucifix in the original composition and singing angels changes the character of the otherwise somewhat realistic composition, since the infant Jesus lays below his own crucified image.