The U.S. Postal Service is kicking off the 2011 holiday season with the issuance of the new Christmas stamps.
Inspired by 1950s-era ornaments, the festive Holiday Baubles Forever stamps feature four colorful ornaments sure to add to the joys of the season. These baubles also may inspire fond memories of beloved ornaments from childhood - objects that still have the power to enchant us today.
Art director William Gicker used illustrations by Linda Fountain of Hilton Head Island, SC, to create the ornaments shown in the stamp art.
For many years, the Postal Service has issued traditional Christmas stamps featuring the Madonna and Child. The Christmas stamp for 2011 presents a detail from a painting by the Italian master Raphael, entitled Madonna of the Candelabra. This circular painting dates around 1513, and, is now in the Walters Art Museum collection in Baltimore, MD.
In 1508, Raphael was summoned by Pope Julius II to Rome, where he spent the last dozen years of his short life in an inspired burst of activity. The masterpieces he produced in Rome include the painting reproduced on this stamp.
The stamp art is a detail of the painting, as the original photograph was cropped to fit the stamp format. Richard Sheaff served as art director for this issuance.
Both the Holiday Baubles and Madonna of the Candelabra by Raphael stamps are being issued as Forever stamps which make them good for one-ounce First-Class Mail postage forever.