CLEVELAND, OH.- Working from a detail of a painting titled Virgin and Child With the Young John the Baptist by the Italian master Sandro Botticelli, designer Richard Sheaff of Scottsdale, AZ, created the Postal Services 2008 Christmas stamp. The painting, tempera and oil on wood, dates to around 1490 and is now in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art. It presents one of the most common figural groups in religious art. Botticellis beautifully rendered figures capture the tender relationship between mother and child and at the same time suggest Marys foreknowledge of Christs fate. The facial expression of John the Baptist, seen standing to the side in a prayerful gesture, also suggests a heightened awareness.
Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, better known as Sandro Botticelli or Il Botticello ("The Little Barrel"; March 1, 1445 May 17, 1510) was an Italian painter of the Florentine school during the Early Renaissance (Quattrocento). Less than a hundred years later, this movement, under the patronage of Lorenzo de' Medici, was characterized by Giorgio Vasari as a "golden age", a thought, suitably enough, he expressed at the head of his Vita of Botticelli. His posthumous reputation suffered until the late 19th century; since then his work has been seen to represent the linear grace of Early Renaissance painting, and The Birth of Venus and Primavera rank now among the most familiar masterpieces of Florentine art.