Works from the National Gallery of Art

Raphael - Niccolini-Cowper Madonna

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“The Niccolini-Cowper Madonna," 1508, by Raphael, oil on panel,
Andrew W. Mellon Collection, National Gallery of Art
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1983 Christmas stamp issued October 28th in Washington, DC (Scott 2063)

Raphael’s composition for the “Niccolini-Cowper Madonna” was well-suited for a stamp, as the designer, Bradbury Thompson, cropped the image almost imperceptibly. However, the glowing colors, especially of the sky, are not quite captured in the stamp. Visible upon close inspection is an inscription around the neckline of Mary’s garment, reading MDVIII•R•V•PIN, meaning “1508 Raphael of Urbino painted it” (Shapley 1979).

The stamp was printed using the photogravure technique, a process where the image is etched onto the plate photographically, through a screen. Unfortunately, some of the detail is lost, as dots of color blended together on the stamp are less precise than oil paint and a fine brush.