Works from the National Gallery of Art

Raphael - Small Cowper Madonna

A woman and nude child, both with pale skin, sit in front of a deep landscape in this vertical painting. Seen from about the knees up, the woman’s body is angled slightly to our and she supports the baby under his bottom with her left hand, on our right. She wears a long-sleeved crimson dress with a sheer, nearly translucent fabric around her shoulders.
“The Small Cowper Madonna,” c. 1505, by Raphael, oil on panel, Widener Collection, National Gallery of Art
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1973 Christmas stamp issued November 7, 1973 in Washington, DC (Scott 1507)

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).

Below is a lower-margin plate block of twenty of the stamps. The six plates used to print the image were assigned numbers 34131-34136.

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Plate block of twenty 1973 Christmas stamps issued November 7th in Washington, DC (Scott 1507)