Friday, 26 August 2016



Prussia, Definitives (except frame of 4pf) (1)

(1) Meekel's Weekly, 15 Nov 1937

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Heras and De Oro: A right royal pair

Having two or even more engravers working on a single stamp is nothing new. Just take a look at the American catalogue for example, which is riddled with vignette engravers, frame engravers and letter engravers. However, having two engravers working on a single vignette is a different matter altogether and to be honest, I only know of a few other ones and even there, the parts they were working on were decidedly separate from each other.

But here we have a stamp, issued in Spain in 2004, which includes the portaits of the then King and Queen of Spain. It forms part of a miniature sheet celebrating the monarchy (top centre). A little research done some time ago revealed that there were two engravers involved: Juan Carlos Heras Vicario and Alfredo de Oro Sanz. Heras engraved the queen's portrait and De Oro that of the king.

There was a special souvenir sheetlet issued which only includes the engraved stamp of the standard miniature sheet and an extra print of the engraved parts only. For us the perfect way to compare the two gentlemen's work.

While I suppose the style is very much alike, I noticed that De Oro used the time-honoured technique of cross-hatching with dots in the diamonds on the king's cheek. I would also dare to say that the king's facial features such as his eyes and mouth are way more pronounced than that of the queen. However, I much prefer the queen's forehead to that of the king, not being sure of those hard lines at the top, though you don't really notice that when just looking at the stamp. And I quite like the way the light shines on the queen's hair. All in all I would call it a draw!

Final point: the two portraits are so close to each other and fit so well, that I would presume the engravers have been working on the same master die, rather than each engraving his own die, which would undoubtedly have yielded printing headaches.

What do you think?


Saturday, 13 August 2016

Naszarkowski's animals

This week I'm just going to let you enjoy some stamp engravings of animals, which I think are truly beautiful. They're all by Piotr Naszarkowski. From 1993 we have an engraving of the polecat. Although multicoloured, the colour scheme is very unobtrusive and tastefully applied.

From 1996 we have the hedgehog. I love how Piotr has managed to engrave the many stickly bits.

But my all time favourites are the 2009 set of winter animals. By now Piotr had perfected his fauna style, being able to capture the essence of any animal with as little fuss as possible, whether it's a ptarmigan, an alpine hare or an ermine. The fact that they're printed in monochrome really helps a lot and makes each and everyone a miniature work of art. Hats off to him!


Saturday, 6 August 2016

Albuisson's engravings for Art du Timbre Gravé

You probably know that when you join Art de Timbre Gravé, you get free engravings made by the stamp engravers who are also associated with the organisation. Founder and (until recently) President Pierre Albuisson has contributed three of those engravings so far, of which his 2015 Canadian engraving is the latest.

His previous work dates from 2011 and is more topical. I like how it illustrates the constant mirroring of the image, which is of course so indicative of the recess printing method.

But my favourite by far is his first engraving for the ATG, which he made in 2006.  It is seasonal in character, but seems more like a joyful celebration of nature.

Isn't it stunning?


Saturday, 30 July 2016

Luquet's Red Cross stamp

The French Post has a way of promoting their stamps which yields surprising items for us engraver lovers to collect. Nowadays, they issue these rectangular items (almost like strips) with a monochrome intaglio print of newly issued stamps. These are fun to collect and never expensive. We're told that they are made from the original engraved die, so that is good as well. But be warned: these 'gravures', as they're officially called, are computer engraved when they represent stamps which weren't engraved in the first place.

Not so long ago, though, the French post issued Philatelic Documents, which were even more interesting for us. They not only included that monochrome print of the stamp, but also extra engravings, usually by the same engraver. And, what's even better: if the original stamp was not engraved, the stamp image on the document usually was, and more often than not this was a hand-engraved image!

Have I lost you? Well, take a look at the 1992 Red Cross stamp issued in France, the one with the birdies. It is a stamp printed in photogravure. The philatelic document for this issue includes a lovely engraving of the Samaritans, engraved by Eve Luquet.

That same document also has a monochrome image of the stamp itself, and it is engraved. The name of the engraver (that same Ms Luquet), appears on the top right.

To top it all: there even exist die proofs of that engraved stamp by Eve Luquet!

Ah yes, life can be complex but so wonderfully exhilirating.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Elefterios Venezilos

There was a time when I tried to piece together a thematic collection on the aftermath of World War One, based on a book I had read about the 1919 Paris Peace Congress. I have since shelved that plan for I never managed to translate what I envisaged into a realtime collection, and when my engravers came to the fore more and more, I could no longer maintain two collections with my budget.

But at one stage there was great cross-over between the two collections. It happened when I was on the prowl for Venezilos items, the eminent Greek leader. I stumbled upon a beautiful progressive die proof, which I managed to snap up as well.

It is of one of the values from the 1965 Greek set marking the centenary of his birth. Now Greece does not feature often on my site and that's mainly due to a lack of information. But thankfully, this 1965 set has an engraver attributed to it, this being A. Tassos, whose real name apparently is Anastasios Alevizos.

Tassos is a well-known name in Greek philately, as he was the designer for quite a few stamp sets. But whether he was a steel engraver is less clear. Research shows that he was an engraver, but almost exclusively a woodblock engraver.

There are quite a few stamps sets which he designed, but none have him down as the engraver, except for this single set. So was it true that he really only engraved this set or has he done more, or has he maybe not even engraved this one and is it all just an error in the catalogue?

I'm afraid I owe you the answer, but I'm hoping one of you may know!


Saturday, 2 July 2016

Olinowetz' frames

Maria Olinowetz holds the distinction of having been the first female engraver employed for Austrian stamps. Her oeuvre is rather limited though, with only three stamps bearing her name: the 1951 Scout jamboree issue, the 1952 Socialist youth camp issue and the 1958 Choir festival issue.

Olinowetz, born in 1906, started off learning to engrave fire arms, and furthered her artistic studies in Vienna, after which she was employed by the Austrian state printing works. She was noted for her ornamental talents which is why she worked on quite a number of stamps, without given credit through the inclusion of her name on the stamp.

However, thanks to the Michel catalogues, we are able to name at least some of the ornamental work she has done. First of all there's the 1953 set to promote the Vienna Evangelical School rebuilding fund. For this set of five stamps she engraved the frames.

Olinowetz also engraved the frames of the 1955 set marking the tenth anniversary of the re-establishment of the Austrian Republic. A third issue mentioned in the catalogues is the 1956 stamp marking the bicentenary of Mozart's birth.

Looking at what I consider to be her most splendid work, the Scout Jamboree stamp of 1951, I'm amazed she hasn't been given more work to do, but maybe even back then, or maybe even especially back then, competition was cut-throat, especially for a woman?


Saturday, 18 June 2016

Jean Pheulpin (1907-1991)

Jean Pheulpin (1907-1991) was born in Valentigney in the district of Doubs. His father was an industrialist, but had the good sense to steer his son, who so obviously was in love with all things beautiful, towards a proper education where he could translate his love into a decent profession. And so, Pheulpin was soon packed off to spend four years at Boulle, the College for Applied Arts in Paris, where he worked with metal and learned the art of engraving.

Pheulpin then spent five more years at the School of Arts in Paris. There he could immerse himself completely in the world of engraving, taking lessons from the engraver Antoine Dezarrois, together with many other students who also went on to become famous French engravers, such as Cheffer, Gandon and Piel.

Pheulpin’s career started by teaching drawing at various schools in the Parisian suburbs. He kept this up for many years, with his pupils always being delighted to tell him of his latest stamps which were on show in the various stamp shop windows. But meanwhile he also took on commissions for engravings for national museums and for the bulletin issued by the Society of Bibliolatry.

After the Second World War, Pheulpin submitted an essay of a portrait of Bossuet, to try and get a position as a stamp engraver. The portrait was made in stamp vignette format and was of a lovely finesse. The postal authorities liked his work and he was employed by them. Pheulpin’s first stamp was engraved in 1949 and issued in 1950: the 50f airmail value from the definitive set issued in the Comoro Islands. He also designed it. His first stamp for France followed soon after, in 1951. It was a single value issued for the Popular Pictorial Art Exhibition in Epinal. The subject of the stamp was St. Nicolas.

Unlike many other French engravers, Pheulpin kept on spending a large amount of time working on stamps for the various French territories. His engravings for Laos, in particular, are a major part of his portfolio. For nearly two decades, the 1950s and 1960s, the vast majority of stamps issued in Laos were engraved by Pheulpin. His Laotian Elephants stamp set, issued in 1958 in Laos, even won him the Grand Prix de l’Art Philatélique. While Pheulpin usually worked with a small team of engravers in situ, he could always be found in the National Library, researching the subjects he had to engrave even further.

In an early interview, Pheulpin said that he enjoyed engraving portraits and landscapes the most. Although he did admit having great trouble engraving a French stamp depicting Henri Poincaré, issued as part of the National Relief Fund set of 1952. Poincaré was a typical bourgeois man, clad in black with a monocle and a small bow tie. Not at all interested in the image he would leave behind for posterity, Pheulpin had to work hard to find a suitable way of portraying the man, discarding an initial portrait-style stamp for one where he has Poincaré reading a book.

As much as he loved it, Pheulpin did concede engraving was often very hard work: peering constantly through microscopic magnifiers, creating lines which had to be fine, compact and deep enough to be still visible after having been copied several times; from master die to transfer roller, from roller to printing plate and from plate to stamp paper. Time was another major aspect and Pheulpin is quoted as having stated that he had to work 79 hours a week when completing his engravings for the 1952 set to mark the admission of Laos into the UPU. Yet, when asked whether he wasn’t afraid to damage his eyesight, he referred to a professor at his former art school who was still engraving at the age of 93!

Though Pheulpin did not quite make it to that same old age, he did in all engrave some 650 stamps, the last of which were issued just days after his 81st birthday in 1988, being a French Polynesian set on medicinal plants.

This article was first published in Stamp and Coin Mart of August 2015 and is reproduced with their kind permission. 

Jean Pheulpin's database can be found HERE.

Jean Pheulpin's gallery can be found HERE

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Pheulpin's elephants

A major part of Jean Pheulpin's stamp legacy forms his engravings for Laos. Pheulpin stayed true to his French territories work, even after he had become one of the engravers for the mother country. There's quite a few beauties to be found in the 1950s in particular, all enhanced by that slightly mysterious south-east Asian splendour.

Arguably his most famous set from that lot would be the 1958 set depicting Laotian elephants. And that's not just me talking: Pheulpin won the Grand Prix de l'Art Philatélique for that set, so its beauty is generally acknowledged.

Luckily, it is also one of those sets for which colour proofs are relatively widely available. I've managed to pick up a few through the years, but there's many more. Most of them are monochrome which is quite good. Although the colours used for the actual stamps are quite beautiful, some stamps do suffer a bit because of that enormously bright red used on some values, especially on the 10c.

The colour proofs were made with the printing plates, but it is also possible to find proofs made with the actual master die, though these are quite a bit more expensive. I only got the one, which probably went cheap because it's a cut-out rather than the whole thing. However, it does provide us with a crisp and clear print, so I thought I'd better go for it anyway.

Looking through the Laos catalogue once again, while writing this, I'm once again sorely tempted to try and get all those Pheulpin stamps in. Who knows, maybe I'll give it a go! But in the meantime, I'm preparing to upload his biography which, with any luck, should appear on your screen next week.

His was the final biography ever to be published in my now defunct Stamp Engravers column in Stamp & Coin Mart, so there's another accolade for him.


Saturday, 28 May 2016

De Oro's golden nuggets

I've mentioned that 2004 Spanish exhibition and accompanying beautiful catalogue before, but it's high time I showed you some more gems featured in both. As I was about to mount my few Alfredo de Oro Sanz issues, I thought I'd scan them first so I can show them here.

There is, to be honest, not much information about the man in the catalogue. What with him being just a few years older than me, his career is very much one of the nineties and onwards. The catalogue only includes some four items engraved by him, of which I've been able to track down three. The fourth, a private engraving of the Puerta de Bisagra in Toldeo, is absolutely stunning but I've no idea how to get hold of it, or indeed if I ever can.

I had more luck with the 1990's banknote which includes a portrait by De Oro of Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish conquistador.

The two stamps included in the book were of course also easy to find.  First up we have a value from the 1997 'Jewish Quarters' set. De Oro engraved the façade of a 15th century building in St Anthony's Quarter in Cáceres.

The one I like best, though, is a 1999 stamp to mark the International Money Museums Congress which was held in Madrid that year (click on it to enlarge it to enjoy the detail even better). The stamp depicts Marinus Reymerswaele's "The Money Changer and his Wife". Apparently, the 16th century Dutch painter only painted some five different subjects over and over again, of which this is one. And, to link in with a previous post, most of his paintings are adaptations of Albrecht Dürer's art. So once again we're back on well-trodden territory. I think this calls for Dürer to become our stamp engravers patron saint!