Vancouver artist Adrian Horvath has been designing postage stamps for Canada Post for years, from an Endangered Turtles of Canada set to a collection of Snow Mammals. He even worked on the famed Star Trek series of stamps the post office issued in 2016 and 2017.
But Horvath’s latest work holds special importance for him as a Christian. His design for the 2023 Christmas stamp, Madonna and Child, portrays the newborn Jesus cradled in Mary’s arm as she gently gazes down with love.
“I have had the honour of doing a few stamps for Canada Post in the past, Horvath said in an email to The B.C. Catholic. “This one was definitely a special one for me.”
Canada Post’s choice of the Vancouver designer and illustrator was the result of a Mother and Child image he created to illustrate a Mother’s Day post two years ago. “I wrote about my relationship with my mother, my wife being a new mother at the time, and what Mary represented to me as a Christian.” He and his wife have attended Coastal Church in downtown Vancouver.
Canada Post recognized Horvath’s love for the subject matter and asked him to pitch a concept for a future Christmas stamp reflecting Mother and Child. His design was accepted.
Horvath described the concept of Mary that he was trying to convey in the Christmas stamp. “I see Mary as someone who was born into a selfless calling and was entrusted with a responsibility beyond herself. She had the faith to carry out what God had asked of her, and I see that sacrificial love in mothers like mine and my wife – so this was a special stamp for me.”
Horvath, who studied at the Art Institute of Vancouver, grew up in Hungary and lived there until he was 6, said he has returned several times and is always inspired by the architecture in the largely Catholic country.
“I absolutely love the beauty of the countless Catholic churches around every corner,” he said. “I never hesitate to take a moment and sit. I can feel the presence of God.”
He wanted to bring that “tiny glimpse” of God to this year’s Christmas stamp. “I really wanted to pay homage to those churches and for the illustration to reflect a loving embrace.”
He also intertwined elements like the olive branch on Mary’s dress and the cup below the child “to represent what I think is the most important and beautiful part of the faith – the sacrifice of Jesus and the peace he may bring.”
The design also evokes the stained-glass windows in Horvath’s favourite churches such as St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Appropriately, Canada Post chose the town of St. Marys, Ont., for the Official First Day Cover cancellation. “We try to connect the cancel location with the story told by the stamp,” said a Canada Post spokesperson. “Since this year the stamps feature Mary and Jesus, St. Mary’s seemed like a fitting choice.” The postmark even features a line-drawn illustration of a dove, a symbol of peace.
The Madonna and Child stamp continues Canada Post’s nearly 60-year tradition of offering religious-themed Christmas stamps. Since 2005 it has made both Christmas and holiday stamps available.
About The Madonna and Child
In background information for this year’s Christmas stamp, Canada Post explained its choice of the Madonna and Child image.
The Madonna, from the old Italian ma donna (my lady), is one of the most frequently depicted figures in European Christian art. Wall paintings of Mary appeared in the Roman catacombs.
During those first centuries of Christianity, Mary was sometimes shown alone, her hands outstretched in a gesture of prayer. In 431, she received the official title of Theotokos (literally God bearer, or Mother of God) from the Council of Ephesus, a move that inspired a proliferation of religious art pairing her with the newborn Jesus.
During the Middle Ages, Mary was often shown seated on a throne, the baby perched on her lap. Dressed in blue and surrounded by saints or angels, she evoked links to the heavenly realm.
Over the centuries, artists incorporated cultural references and influences from their own era. Images became more intimate and maternal, with Mary cradling the Holy Infant, much like the depiction on this stamp.
About the design
The Official First Day Cover is a warm, dark blue-green colour. “Christmas” and “Noël” text are largely displayed on the left in a light-coloured festive seasonal font. The Madonna and Child stamp is in the upper right corner, with the cancel mark immediately below.
Designed by Adrian Horvath, the issue stamp shows the Madonna and Child in a style reminiscent of the stained-glass windows found in churches.
The stamp is a blend of cream, and pastel green and pink. The colourful line-drawn design style depicts the loving embrace of mother and child against a background of stained-glass-inspired imagery. The newborn Jesus is cradled in Mary’s arm, and she gently gazes down with love.
The back of the cover is the same colour as the front, and features facts and specifications about the issue, and a flower and leaf illustration in the lower right corner.
The cancel location is Saint Marys, Ontario, Canada, and the mark features a line-drawn illustration of a dove, a symbol of peace … an appropriate image for the Christmas cancel.