Though slightly cropped, the 1973 traditional Christmas stamp almost exactly reproduces the general composition of the 1505 painting by Raphael, though halos are emphasized more on the stamp. Known as “The Small Cowper Madonna” because it was owned by the Cowper family of Hertford, England, the painting evinces, through Mary’s facial features and head tilt, Raphael’s training with the artist Perugino. The influence of Leonardo da Vinci may be seen in the closeness between mother and child (Shapley 1979). A small church in the landscape included in the stamp is probably the church of San Bernardino, near Urbino (Shapley 1979).
Above is a lower-margin plate block of twenty of the stamps. The six plates used to print the image were assigned numbers 34131-34136.