Jun 162017

An Arts Fuse regular feature: the arts on stamps of the world.


By Doug Briscoe

Portuguese ballerina Águeda Sena turns 90 today. She was born in 1927 to a Portuguese father and a Bolivian mother in Lisbon. She studied dance from a very early age and became a pupil of Margarida de Abreu when she was around 12. She married Fernando Lima, whose stamp from this same set we saw about a month ago. The couple often worked together on television as well as on stage. Sena had the innovative concept of putting poetry to dance, and she thus “choreographed” works of Fernando Pessoa (whose stamps we saw three days ago) and many others. She put on a prize-winning show at Expo ‘70 in Osaka with what she regards as “the greatest triumph of [her] career”, Namban Matsuri, an interdisciplinary program combining dance, actors, and musicians. These are just a few of her many accomplishments in a long and busy career.

Italian early Baroque painter Carlo Saraceni (born 1579) died on this date in 1620. A fine and overlooked artist, he was born and died in Venice, but lived in Rome from 1598 until just before his death. His Saint Cecilia and the Angel is well known to classical music record collectors, as the image has been used on more than one album cover. The painting on the Panamanian stamp is The Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1606).

Also born on 16 June (O.S. 4 June) was Russian painter Sergei Vassilievitch Ivanov (1864 – 16 August [O.S. 3 August] 1910). He was an humanitarian who documented on canvas the forced migrations of peasants, the lives of convicts, and the 1905 uprising. Ivanov also specialized in historical paintings like Winter campaign against the Lithuanians (1903), as seen—or rather, hinted at—on the stamp, and one of his most familiar works, Streltsy. Ivanov also provided illustrations for classic literature: Gogol, Lermontov, Pushkin, et al.


Our most recognizable birthday boy today must be Stan Laurel (born Arthur Stanley Jefferson; 16 June 1890 – 23 February 1965). Just yesterday I posted a British stamp showing the Mona Lisa smile. It so happens that that stamp comes from a light-hearted 1990 set devoted to famous smiles, and Stan Laurel’s also made the cut. We also reprise the US Laurel and Hardy stamp we saw on Oliver Hardy’s birthday back on January 18 and add to it a stamp from the year 2000 from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Another stamp engraver is up next. The Belgian Constant Spinoy (1924-1993) was born and died in Mechelen. His contribution to the production of Belgian stamps was such that he himself was honored on an issue of 1997. Next to that I show three of his many pieces: one for the Ghent International Flower Exhibition of 1975, one from 1966 for the National Science Institute, and one marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Netherlandish painter Petrus Christus. Now, since our offerings are on the skimpy side today, this gives us an opportunity to talk about Petrus Christus (c1410/1420 – 1475/1476), whose birthday and precise date of death are unknown and who therefore might otherwise never make a showing here on Arts on the Stamps of the World. Christus and Hans Memling succeeded Jan van Eyck as the most prominent painters of Bruges. He is named in passing by Vasari but was largely unknown to posterity until the nineteenth century. At least four of his works are at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and three more can be seen at National Gallery in Washington DC. One of the best known of the thirty or so pieces attributed to him (this one is at Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie) is his Portrait of a Young Girl (c1470), as seen on Constant Spinoy’s stamp. I can’t explain the color variation, unless perhaps that was Spinoy’s touch (?).

The work of Austrian architect Heinz Tesar (born 16 June 1939 in Innsbruck) is displayed on a 2007 stamp for the Essl Museum (of modern art) in Klosterneuburg, a building he completed in 1999. Other Tesar structures can be seen throughout Austria as well as in Berlin and Dresden.

Many happy returns to Joyce Carol Oates on her 79th birthday!

A graduate of the University of Massachusetts with a B.A. in English, Doug Briscoe worked in Boston classical music radio, at WCRB, WGBH, and WBUR, for about 25 years, beginning in 1977. He has the curious distinction of having succeeded Robert J. Lurtsema twice, first as host of WGBH’s weekday morning classical music program in 1993, then as host of the weekend program when Robert J.’s health failed in 2000. Doug also wrote liner notes for several of the late Gunther Schuller’s GM Recordings releases as well as program notes for the Boston Classical Orchestra. For the past few years he’s been posting a Facebook “blog” of classical music on stamps of the world, which has now been expanded to encompass all the arts for The Arts Fuse.


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