The U.S. Postal Service unveiled two Christmas Forever stamps during the American Stamp Dealers Association stamp show in New York.
The stamps are sold as a booklet of 20 stamps. They are on sale at post offices nationwide, at: www.usps.com/stamps and by phone at (800) STAMP24.
The new Virgin and Child stamp by Jan Gossaert features a detail of Gossaert's 1531 oil-on-wood painting, "Virgin and Child," from the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art.
The Virgin and Child by Jan Gossaert and the Holy Family stamps.
Draped in purple and blue, the Virgin Mary supports her own head by leaning on one of her hands.
According to art historians, this pose was an unusual way to depict the Virgin Mary in Gossaert's time and may have been meant to evoke both sadness and contemplation by reminding viewers of earlier artistic depictions of ancient scholars, St. Joseph in Nativity scenes and mourners at the Crucifixion.
Supported by the Virgin Mary's other hand, a curly-haired infant Jesus loosely draped in a white cloth looks to the viewer's right and holds a bunch of red currants, which scholars have interpreted as foreshadowing Christ's future suffering.
This is the second time a Gossaert painting has appeared on a U.S. stamp. In 2002, the U.S. Postal Service issued a Christmas stamp that featured a detail of Gossaert's circa-1520 oil-on-panel "Madonna and Child."
Gossaert is credited with being one of the first artists to bring the innovations of the Italian Renaissance to northern Europe.
Richard Sheaff served as art director for this issue.
Also, the Postal Service announced the issuance of the Holy Family Forever Stamp in a new format as a pane of 20 stamps.
First issued in 2012 as booklets, the Holy Family stamp celebrates Christmas with a scene from the Nativity story that reminds us of the joys of the season: family, togetherness and the birth of Jesus.
The stamp depicts Joseph leading a donkey that carries Mary and the baby Jesus, guided by a star shining in the twilight of a desert sky.
Art director William Gicker, designer Greg Breeding and illustrator Nancy Stahl created this evocative image of the Holy Family.
The Virgin and Child by Jan Gossaert and the Holy Family stamps may be purchased at local post offices, online at: usps.com/stamps or by calling (800) STAMP24 (782-6724).
Additionally, the stamps are being sold on: ebay.com/stamps.
Forever stamps are good for mailing 1-ounce First-Class Mail letters anytime in the future regardless of price changes.
Customers may view the Holy Family and Virgin and Child by Jan Gossaert Forever stamps, as well as many of this year's other stamps, on Facebook at: facebook.com/USPSStamps, on Twitter@USPSstamps or on the Web site Beyond the Perf at: beyondtheperf.com/2013-preview.
Beyond the Perf is the Postal Service's online site for information on upcoming stamp subjects, first-day-of-issue events and other philatelic news.
Kathleen Swanson is a spokeswoman for U.S. Postal Service.