Christmas: The Nativity

Posted on Nov. 03, 2008 by CPO in Latest Stamps
For centuries, artists the world over have sought, through painting, sculpture and other means, to capture the Nativity in all its mystery and mysticism. Their renderings of this hallowed event have kept the Christmas Story alive and relevant for more than 2,000 years. In November, Canada Post will issue one PERMANENTTM stamp at the domestic rate (52¢) to carry on this sacred tradition.

For Toronto graphic designer Joe Gault, it's no secret why the Nativity (or "crèche") has been so widely revered by artists. "It tells the Christmas story from a whole range of perspectives," he explains. Gault researched Nativity art at Toronto's Cathedral Church of St. James, which boasts one of the largest collection of crèches in Canada. At the cathedral, he was introduced to the works of renowned Italian-Canadian sculptor Antonio Caruso. Gault found what he was looking for in Caruso's series of miniature wood prototypes for a crèche he was in the process of carving.

"I was just fascinated with the phenomenal detail that went into these two-inch sculptures," remarks Gault. The figures, the largest of which is five inches tall, were engraved from lime wood. "The small sculptures allowed me great flexibility as a designer," Gault elaborates. "I was able to rework and reconfigure them to experiment with countless poses." The result? A stamp that retains the complex detailing of the sculptures portrayed. Alain Leduc, Manager of Stamp Design and Production at Canada Post, adds, "When you look at the images through a magnifying glass, you can see the intricate knife marks in the wood. So, even in stamp format, we can appreciate Caruso's tremendous talent."

In the image, the Nativity figures are set against a fresco background, and the elements were brought together digitally. Gault consulted Caruso often throughout the design process. On his digital effects, Caruso remarks, "I was very impressed with the way the lighting complemented my sculptures." Gault explains the process: "The image of the child, photographed in his crib, was layered in light to create an ethereal feel. What's interesting is that at first glance, it looks like he is floating, but a closer look reveals the child in his crib with a sense that you're observing the scene from above." Alain Leduc adds, "We've added a metallic ink around the infant's head to create the effect of a halo."

Pleased with the way his sculptures were depicted on the stamp, Caruso comments, "No details were lost in the design. The two art forms (stamp and sculpture) were fused together in a way that brought the best out of both." Indeed, this beautiful reenactment of the Christmas Story will make a striking addition to the rich tradition of Nativity art, and keep the practice alive for many years to come.

For more information on the Cathedral Church of St. James, visit www.stjamescathedral.on.ca

To learn more about Antonio Caruso and his work, visit www.antoniocaruso.com

Stamp Specifications

  • Design: Joseph Gault
  • Dimensions: 24.75 mm x 32.25 mm (vertical)
  • Gum Type: Pressure sensitive
  • Paper Type: Tullis Russell
  • Perforations: Simulated perforation
  • Photography: Michael Rafelson
  • Printer: Lowe-Martin
  • Printing Process: Lithography in 6 colours
  • Tagging: General, 4 sides
  • Quantity: 24,000,000
  • : Antonio Caruso
  • Product #: 113722
  • Layout: Booklet of 12 stamps
  • Price: $6.24
  • Denomination: 1 x PERMANENTTM domestic stamp
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  • Product #: 413722131
  • Layout: Official First Day Cover
  • Price: $1.52
  • OFDC Cancellation Location: Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Quebec
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