Friday, 25 August 2017

Mauritania 1938 - Camels

The Sahara Desert constitutes almost 90% of its landmass. Camels are a typical mode of transport. And camel milk is offered to household guests. So where does one go for a camel ride in the desert or partake of some tasty of camel milk? The answer is Mauritania, more formerly known as Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Mauritania is located in West Africa. It is bordered by five other African countries as well as the Atlantic Ocean.

As I mentioned above, camels play an important role in Mauritanian daily life. The species of camel found in Mauritania, and indeed other areas of Africa, is the one-humped dromedary (C. dromedarius). Of the three known species of camel in the world, the dromedary is the most common. In Mauritania, camels are used for transport and they provide all important calcium in the diets of the locals in the form of milk and cheese. And even camel milk chocolate is now being produced!


Between 1938-1940, the Institut de Gravure issued a set of 34 definitive stamps for use in Mauritania. The set consisted four design types, one of which was engraved by Albert Decaris. This particular design features Mauritanian locals and their camels, and it was issued in seven different values. If you're a regular to my blogs, you will know that I like to collect and feature all values issued. I very much enjoy studying the effects different colours have on a design. Anywho, enough talk! Let's get to the images of this great design.


It is worth noting that the 40c & 45c values were issued in 1940. Which value colour is your favourite? For me it is the 50c purple stamp.

Until next time...

Thursday, 17 August 2017

I Muse... On a Few Improvements

I'm always on the look-out for ways of improving my blogs and making it easier for my readers to navigate the through the blog and find what they are after. One issue I've been working to sort out is a practical way of letting everyone know when I have made additions or edits to previously published posts. The other day I had an idea that may offer a reasonable solution.

I have now added a "What's New" tab to the Pages bar on my blog (the highlighted circle labelled "1." in the diagram below). The Pages Bar can be found just below the blog's title.  When you click on the tab it will take you to the page as seen below. My plan is to use this page as a kind of message board with information on changes/editions to the blog. At the top of the message I will provide the date of the message (the highlighted circle labelled "2.").

I have already added my first message to the"What's New" tab, so by all means have an explore and see what additions I am making this week. If you have any further suggestions for improvements to this blog, drop me a message :-) 

Until next time... 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

France 1956 - Battle of Verdun

Human history has been witness to some of the most brutal acts of violence. Violence on a scale incomprehensible to imagine. Perhaps one of the most blood-soaked periods of our history was World War I, a war that claimed over 41 million souls. Staggering! And the worst of the battles in this time of mass slaughter was the Battle of Verdun.

World War I was the embodiment of a new age of warfare. New weapons of war such as the howitzer, the mightiest of these being Big Bertha, which could reign destruction on a enemy target up to 9 km away. It was also the dawn of the flying aces of aerial warfare. Who hasn't heard of the legendary Red Baron? Destruction also now came from underwater in the form of submarines, such as the classic German U-boats. And although chemical warfare had been around for a very long time, World War I saw the first mass use of such diabolical weaponry. Chemical agents such as tear gas, and more lethal agents like phosgene, chlorine, and mustard gas were being employed in an attempt to smoke enemies from entrenched areas.

Which leads us to the birth of an horrendous age, the age of Trench Warfare. The most famous arena for Trench Warfare in World War I was the Western Front, a vast area of land riddled with complex networks of trenches, an area where millions of French and Germany soldiers died for little or no gain in territory. Soldiers lived in appalling conditions, before, like lambs to the slaughter, they went 'over the top' of the trench to be mowed down by enemy artillery. It was a ludicrous method of warfare where soldiers died seemingly at the whim of their commanding officers, who, for want of anything better to do, ordered charge after charge. The British public referred to their soldiers as "lions led by donkeys". Indeed, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the British lost 60,000 men - a death toll difficult to comprehend.

The longest battle in the trenches was the Battle of Verdun from 21 February to 18 December 1916. I shall not belittle the sheer horror and complexity of this battle by trying to summarise it here. Instead, I will throw a few statistics your way. The Battle of Verdun was fought between French and German soldiers. It raged for 303 brutal days, and is considered one of the most costly battles in human history. It is currently believed that the total number of casualties in the battle amounted to 714,231. 377,231 of these were French and 337,000 German. Averaging out these staggering numbers we get roughly 70,000 casualties a month or over 2,300 a day! I can't even begin to imagine! For an in-depth analysis of the battle click HERE


On 5 March 1956 France issued a stamp commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Battle of Verdun. Albert Decaris was given the honour of designing and engraving this important stamp. I think he did a beautiful job with this difficult task.


Over time, quite naturally, French Post have issued stamps commemorating this battle, all of which have been beautifully rendered. In fact, I believe there to be an interesting blog on that subject on the horizon. But for now, take a look at this page to peruse more Battle of Verdun stamps, click HERE

Until next time...

Friday, 4 August 2017

France 1961 - Aristide Maillol

A master tapestry designer, painter, and sculptor, Aristide Maillol was a man of many talents. Born 8 December 1861 in Banyuls-sur-Mer, Roussillon, France, Malliol apparently aspired from a young age to be a painter. In 1881 at the age of 20 he moved to Paris to study at the École des Beaux-Arts. Unfortunately things didn't work out as well as he had hoped. He applied to the art school several times and received rejection after rejection. By the time the school finally did accept his application in 1885, Malliol had been living for some time in poverty. I've been unable to find anything about he his studies went, but it would probably not be a stretch to say he did very well.

Mallol's early paintings were heavily influenced by contemporary greats Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and Paul Gauguin. In fact, Gauguin took an interest in Malliol's work, particularly his decorative art. Gauguin was so impressed that he encouraged Malliol in this direction, which led him to try his hand at tapestry design. Malliol excelled in this art form, and even opened his own tapestry workshop. Malliol gained critical acclaim for the work produced in his workshop. His work sparked a new wave of interest for tapestry design in France. 

But Malliol was keen to broaden his artistic horizons by experimenting in other mediums. In 1895 he began making sculptures in terracotta. Within a few short years Malliol was totally hooked on the art of sculpture. So much so that he completely abandoned his work with tapestry art. Indeed, Malliol is now probably most remembered by his beautiful sculptures celebrating the nude female form. One such sculpture was titled Woman aka The Mediterranean circa 1905. 


On 20 February 1961 France issued a stamp celebrating the work of Aristide Malliol. The stamp was issued just under one hundred years after his birth. It was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris. The subject of the stamp was the statue The Mediterranean as mentioned above.

I find this piece of work fascinating. It is the work of one artist, Albert Decaris, utilising his own artistic style to replicate a famous sculpture. I know what your probably saying: stamp engravers have reproduced thousands of pieces of art! That is very true. But within this stamp in particular I can discern the caricature-like style of Decaris blended with the unique talents of Malliol. An impressive piece of stamp art indeed!

Until next time...