Lodovico Carracci’s “The Dream of Saint Catherine of Alexandria” begins to move into the Italian Baroque style esteemed by Samuel Kress, who donated this and other paintings from that period to the National Gallery. The stamps, designed by Bradbury Thompson, were issued in sheets and books of twenty: a new format for Christmas stamps (Postal Bulletin, Oct. 19, 1989).
The lithographed, engraved design for the stamp represents only a portion of the composition of the painting, which includes Mary and angels above the sleeping Saint Catherine, for whom the painting is named. The scene illustrates the “mystic marriage” of Catherine, who dreamed Jesus “placed a ring on her finger to signify betrothal,” and indeed, she wears a ring in the painting (De Grazia 1996). While the luminous colors of the painting are not communicated on the stamp, the elegant forms of the mother and child are, with Jesus appearing more child-like in this version than in many other Christmas stamp images (De Grazia 1996).
Lodovico, in partnership with his cousins Annibale and Agostino, formed an important artists’ academy in Bologna, Italy that fostered “conscious experimentation with style” (De Grazia 1996).