Spanish exhibition

Back in 2004, an exhibition was held in Spain which celebrated the work of 26 artists, both designers and engravers, who worked for the Spanish Mint. Not that I went there, mind you, I only heard about it a year or so ago, but the reason why it still occupies my mind is that a well-illustrated catalogue was produced to coincide with the exhibition.

The book illustrates the work of many an engraver, and what's great is that not only the finished article is shown, but there are also images of die proofs and actual master dies. Besides stamps, we also find banknotes and private artwork illustrated. And at the back of the book there is a catalogue of all work done by these engravers. Which is absolutely fantastic because a lot of SG blanks can be filled in that way. There are the odd mistakes in the list but all in all it's very useful. The FNMT still sells the catalogue so if you like your Spanish engravers, or want to know more about them, I would certainly recommend this book.

And of course it immediately gave me inspiration to try and collect all items illustrated in the book. So I started off with Julian Gonzalez de la Lastra, if only for the beautiful name he has. Gonzalez worked for the FNMT from 1973 to 1995, when he quit to spend all his time in his own design studio. In the book there are two master dies engraved by him, the first being for the 1985 Stamp Day issue of Spain.

To be honest, the actual stamp would not show off the man's engraving talent, because it is a recess/litho combi printing which is usually detrimental to the engraving bit of it. But on the master die you can see how the engraved design does not merely support the litho colours but would have worked on its own very well indeed.

The second master die is for Gonzalez' stamp for the 1989 Lace issue, again from Spain. This is really a spectacular stamp and it seems the subject lends itself perfectly to a superbly detailed engraving. The clever thing is that it is actually the lighter coloured parts which have been engraved, i.e. the lace and the lettering. Almost like a negative image. Click on it and you'll see the incredibly fine engraving.

A final item I managed to get hold of (the book illustrates a private engraving as well, but these would undoubtedly be very hard to find) is a 1986 Bolivian banknote, for which Gonzalez engraved the Altar de la Virgen del Socavon in Oruro, on the reverse of the note.