Hermes / Napoleon III
Paper: Rives Lightweight Buff, 115 grams
Paper Size: 19.5 x 13" [24.13cm x 33cm]
Image Size: 8.5” x 4.72” [21.5cm x 12 cm]
Edition Size: 25
Inks Used: Van Son Rubber Based Inks
Date Cut: Left 27 Sep 2004; Right 15 Mar 2005
Production notes: I scanned the Greek and French postage stamps, then printed reversed copies onto parchment paper [Bienfang No. 100]. These I glued onto linoleum blocks using Photo Mount [3M No. 6092]. I cut directly through the paper using stencil cutters under a stereo dissecting microscope [Bausch & Lomb 13x’] and printed as a collage with a genuine stamp glued [UHUstic Baton de colle] in the lower left and right corners. [See separate prints: Napoleon III and Hermes.]
The world's first postage stamp was issued by Great Britain in 1840 featuring Queen Victoria in right profile enclosed within a simple frame. Called the "Penny Black," the stamp design set a precedent on how a proper postage stamp should look. By 1849 France had issued its first stamp, a portrait of "Ceres" rather more elaborate than than the British stamp. Ceres featured a female left profile as a medallion enclosed in a circular ring of dots on a field of wavy lines and dots encicled by an ornamental frame announcing the country of origin (which the penny black had lacked) and the denomination. In 1852 the mythic figure of Ceres was replaced by a portrait of Napoleon III, Bonaparte's nephew, the President of France's Second Republic, a design which was updated as soon as the president was crowned emperor in 1853.
The printing of stamps became an important commercial enterprise, and less industrial countries contracted with the major colonial powers to produce stamps until a local industry could be established. It was quite natural in 1861 when Greece wanted to initiate a postal system of their own, they contracted with the French to produce their first postage stamp. The design was closely modelled on the Napoleon III, substituting a right profile portrait of Hermes within the central medallion, and changing the text to Greek, but otherwise quite the same. The choice of Hermes was particularly appropriate as the symbol of the postal system since he was the messenger of the gods.
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