November 15, 2013

Leonardo da Vinci

Last week I was a bit whiney when a large-ish lot of stamps came my way and they weren’t quite what I had hoped for. This week the same happened to me but now I’m jubilant!

Why? Well, the large lot I received this week included a set of stamps which were miles better than the set I was originally after. The large lot was the Monaco 1969 year set and the stamps I’m referring to are the six values issued to mark the 450th death anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci.

And the great thing is that they illustrated his drawings rather than any paintings. Now, Da Vinci’s drawings are just as beautiful (if not more) and famous as his other work. I even remember, on my very first trip to Scotland back in 1985, that I went to the Scottish National Gallery on the Mound in Edinburgh to see an exhibition of his drawings. So perfect, such beautiful colours.

The stamps stay true to their subject matter and are just as stunning as the original artwork. I’ve said before that depicting art on stamps is tricky to say the least. But if you forget about paintings and try and focus on artworks that may be reproduced better on a small format, such as drawings, then you may well be on to a winner.

And if you then decide to actually engrave those drawings then you’re basically creating an artwork of an artwork. Can’t go wrong. My favourites from the set are the following three:

The drawing of the head of a girl, dating from around 1483. Engraved by Robert Cami, on the 30c.

The Condottiere, also engraved by Cami, on the 3f.

And finally the Head of St. Madeleine, engraved by Jean Pheulpin, on the 80c. 

Many painters had sketchbooks in which they drew studies for their paintings. But for Da Vinci his sketchbook was so much more. He drew everything he noticed around him or found interesting. His subjects are as wide ranging as his curiosity and include anything from caricatures to human anatomy. For Da Vinci, drawing was really the act of trying to understand and this understanding gave him immense joy. And that’s obviously what his drawings still exude. Mona Lisa: eat your heart out!

See yous later

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