PIEL, Jules

Jules Piel (1882-1978) was born in 1882 in Paris. He commenced his education at the École Estienne, but was soon encouraged to try and be accepted in the School of Fine Arts in Paris. He succeeded in getting there and his engraving talent was soon noticed. In 1910, he was awarded the prestigious Grand Prix de Rome, the French scholarship to enable young students to go and study in Rome. Piel absolutely loved his time in Italy, but unfortunately for him, his time there was cut short in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War. Piel returned to France and spent the next couple of years in the armed forces.

After the war, he did manage to return to Italy to finish his studies. Back in France he settled down to married life and a career in commercial engraving. Only in the late 1920s did he finally take steps to find a better outlet for his creative skills, and he managed to become involved in the engraving of banknotes and postage stamps.

Jules Piel’s first stamp was a French stamp portraying Victor Hugo, issued in 1933.  Then there was no stopping him, as he embarked on a much lauded career as a stamp engraver. His obvious talent soon earned him national recognition. In as early as 1935 he was given the title “Un des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France” (one of the best craftsmen in France). The laurels would become ever more elaborate, with Piel receiving the national order of the Légion d’Honneur in 1937 and again in 1947, but this time of a higher rank, and the Ordre Nationale de Merité in 1976.

Jules Piel continued engraving stamps when France was occupied during the years of the Second World War. In fact, he was one of the most prolific stamp engravers during that time. His most iconic stamp of that time was a stamp set portraying Marshall Pétain, issued in 1941.

Among his extensive oeuvre - he engraved over 150 stamps for France alone, and many more for the French colonies and other countries - the ones that really stand out are the annual Red Cross stamps. From 1950 onwards, France has issued an annual set of stamps with a surcharge for the Red Cross.  All issues were engraved by Jules Piel, up to and including 1966, which was the last year Piel was employed as an engraver.

When studying these Red Cross stamps, it becomes clear why Piel’s engravings were –and still are - so loved and appreciated by both fellow engravers and the general public. The exquisiteness  of Piel’s work is his ability to make his subjects ooze warmth and charm. This comes to the fore on stamps such as  the 1954 French issue portraying the French Postmaster General Lavallette and the beautiful engraving of Princess Grace and Princess Caroline on the 1958 Monaco issue to mark the birth of prince Albert. But Jules Piel also managed to depict tourist scenes in a most pleasing manner. Popular examples of these are the 1938 stamp depicting the Papal Palace in Avignon and the town of Carcassonne, from the same set.

Jules Piel was also allowed to engrave various Marianne definitives, which is usually regarded as the greatest honour for a French engraver. He engraved no less than three different Mariannes. The first one was the Marianne de Muller set introduced in 1955, followed in 1959 by the Marianne à la Nef stamp, and finally Piel engraved the Marianne de Decaris stamp of 1960. Unfortunately all these Marianne stamps were printed in typography. A final definitive Jules Piel engraved, also to be printed in typography, was the 1960 bicoloured version of the famous Sower stamp.

This article was first published in Stamp and Coin Mart of January 2012 and is reproduced with their kind permission.

Andorra (French), Definitives

French Morocco, Definitives
Monaco, Definitives

Mali Federation, West Indies Tercentenary

Algeria, Definitives, Ghardaia Mzab
France, Daudet's mill
France, Children of the unemployed fund
France, Pilatre de Rozier
France, Roget de Lisle
France, Jaures
Indo-China, Definitives
Ivory Coast, Definitives, Camoé Rapids design

Algeria, Exhibition
Algeria, Capture of Constantine
France, International exhibition
France, Postal workers sports fund
Lebanon, Definitives

Algeria, Philippeville
Cameroun, Cancer fund
Dahomey, Cancer fund
France, Shipwrecked mariners society
France, Pictorial definitives
France, Infantry monument fund
France, Anti-cancer fund
France, radio for the blind
French Equatorial Africa, Cancer fund
French Guiana, Cancer fund
French Guinea, Cancer fund
French Indian Settlements, Cancer fund
French Polynesia, Cancer fund
French Sudan, Cancer fund
French Territory of the Afars and the Issas, Cancer fund
Guadeloupe, Cancer fund
Indo-China, Cancer fund
Ivory Coast, Cancer fund
Madagascar, Cancer fund
Mali Federation, Cancer fund
Mauritania, Cancer fund
New Caledonia, Cancer fund
St. Pierre et Miquelon, Anti-cancer fund

Algeria, Pioneers monument fund
Algeria, World fair
France, Children of the unemployed fund
France, Military engineers
France, PTT orphans fund
France, Unemployed intellectuals fund
France, Birth-rate development fund
France, Postal museum fund
French Morocco, Definitives
Monaco, Definitives
Monaco, National relief

France, Overseas propaganda fund
France, War charities
France, War victims fund
France, National relief fund

Algeria, Petain definitive
France, Marshal Pétain
France, National relief fund
Monaco, National relief fund

Cameroun, Imperial Fortnight
France, André Blondel
France, National relief fund
French Equatorial Africa, Imperial Fortnight
French Guiana, Imperial Fortnight
French Guinea, Imperial Fortnight
French Indian Settlements, Imperial Fortnight
French Oceanic Settlements, Imperial Fortnight
French Somali Coast, Imperial Fortnight
Guadeloupe, Imperial Fortnight
Indo-China, Imperial Fortnight
Indo-China Post Offices in China - Kwamchow, Imperial Fortnight
Inini, Imperial Fortnight
Madagascar, Imperial Fortnight
Martinique, Imperial Fortnight
Monaco, Airmail
New Caledonia, Imperial Fortnight
Réunion, Imperial Fortnight
St. Pierre et Miquelon, Imperial Fortnight
Togo, Imperial Fortnight
Wallis & Futuna Islands, Imperial Fortnight

France, Prisoners families relief fund

Andorra (French), Definitives
France, Admiral de Tourville

France, Liberation of Strasbourg
France, Devastated towns

France, National relief fund
Monaco, Airmail
Monaco, Roosevelt

France, Cathedrals
France, UPU congress
France, Jamboree
Monaco, Centenary Exhibition
Tunisia, Definitives

France, National relief fund
France, UN assembly
French Polynesia, Definitives
Monaco, Stamp day
Monaco, Olympic games
Monaco, Bosio
Saar, Definitives

France, National relief fund
French Morocco, UPU
Monaco, Albert I

France, Red cross
French Morocco, Definitive

France, Bimillenary of Paris
France, Red cross
Saar, Red cross

Algeria, Definitives
Algeria, Médaille militaire
France, Red cross
Saar, Olympics
Saar, Fair
Saar, National relief fund

France, Industry and literary figures
France, Sports
France, Red cross
Saar, Tholey abbey fund

Algeria, Red cross
France, Industry and literary figures
France, Air
France, Lavallette
France, Views
France, Red cross
Monaco, Ozanam, 1f and 15f values (5)
Saar, Red cross
Vietnam, Definitives, 40c to 80c (5)

France, Red cross
French Morocco, Definitives
Monaco, Jules Verne

France, Franco-Latin American friendship
France, Sports
France, Europa
France, Red cross
Monaco, Philatelic exhibition
Monaco, Wedding
Saar, National relief fund 

Algeria, Army welfare fund
France, Famous men
France, Court of accounts
France, Public works
France, Red cross

France, Brussels exhibition
France, Red cross
Monaco, Birth of Prince Albert
Monaco, Virgin Mary
Tunisia, Sixth anniversary of exile of President Bourguiba

Central African Republic, First Anniversary of republic
France, Treaty of the Pyrénées
France, Perpignan castle
France, Red cross
Monaco, Princess Grace clinic
Monaco, UNESCO building
Monaco, Royal couple
Monaco, Flowers

France, Attachement of Savoy
France, Red cross
Laos, King's funeral
Monaco, Definitives
Monaco, First stamp
Monaco, Oceanographic museum
Tunisia, President Bourguiba
Vietnam, Red cross

France, Tourism
France, Red cross
Mali Republic, Presidential definitives
Monaco, Motor cars
Vietnam, President's second term

France, Europa
France, Red cross
Monaco, Scientific centre
Monaco, Birds protection
Vietnam, Malaria eradication

France, Stamp day
France, EEC celebrities
France, Red cross
Monaco, Red cross
Monaco, Postal conference
Monaco, Ecumenical council
Monaco, Pierre de Couberlin

Cambodia, Sangkum
France, President Coty
France, Philatec 1964
France, Georges Mandel
France, Red cross
Monaco, Olympics

France, Red cross
Monaco, ITU
Senegal, Postal services commemoration

Cameroun, World festival of negro arts Dakar
France, Chess festival
France, Red cross
Monaco, Palace
Monaco, Oceanographic history congress
Senegal, World festival of negro arts


France, Damnation of Faust non-postal label for 'Paris 1944' souvenir sheet


French Indochona, back of 20p banknote P56 and back of 500p banknote P57 (3)

France, 500f banknote P82 (1)

France, front of 5000f banknote P91 (3)

France, 5000f banknote P103 (2)

French West Africa, front of 1000f banknote P42 and front of 5000f banknote P43 (3)

France, Back of 1000f banknote P130, 5000f banknote P131 and front of 10,000f banknote P132 (1,3)

French Indochina, back of 100p banknote P82 (3)
Réunion, Front of 5000f banknote P48 (3)

France, front of 500f banknote, 1000f, 5000f banknotes and front of 10,000f banknote, P133-136 (1,3,4)
French Indochina, 200p banknote P98 and Bao Dai portrait on 200p banknote P109 (1,3)

France, 50f banknote P143 and 500f banknote P145 (1,3)

France, 10f, 50f and 100f banknotes P147-P149 (1,2)

(1) The International Engraver's Line - Gene Hessler
(2) Wikipedia
(3) frenchbanknotes.com website
(4) banknotes.com website
(5) Collecting by engraver - Stampcommunity website