CHRISTMAS/ Design 2007

by Maev Kennedy, Royal Mail Special Stamps 2007 Yearbook.

Marco Ventura grew up with angels. He was born in Italy, where they flutter across the walls of every Catholic church. Appropriately the stamps were issued in the year that marks 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Wesley who, in his lifetime, wrote more then 6,000 hymns, none more famous than “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”. “Since I was a child I’ve been surrounded by images of saints, Madonnas and angels”, says the designer. The son of a book illustrator, he began his own career much as any medieval apprentice would have, hand colouring his father’s pen and ink illustrations. His own work is traditional in technique, beginning with drawings in very hard pencil on paper that has been prepared with a thin coat of gesso plaster. Angels bearing messages of peace spelled out on rippling banners are commonplace in Renaissance art, and this motif is echoed in the stamps. In creating them, he made close to a hundred preparatory sketches, including a whole angelic orchestra- “I thought angels playing music would be very appropriate for the Christmas theme” he says. ” I wanted them to be on Earth, not flying in the sky. They are neither female nor male – just kindly, protective figures who bring delight to everyone with their music.”