Jirka's Dürer

Read any article on or interview with any stamp engraver and you're bound to come across the name of Albrecht Dürer. This Renaissance artist had an enormous influence on contemporary and future artists, with regard to his engravings and print making. It sometimes seems as if each and every stamp engraver has in some way been influenced by him as well, although I've latterly come to realise that I may have to redefine that statement slightly to state that each and every stamp engraver from continental Europe (still a large chunk of the whole group though) seems to have been influenced by him.

It would therefore be fantastic, I would think, to have a little side collection of their work interpreting the works of this Albrecht Dürer. So let's have a look at what Ladislav Jirka did. In 1971, as part of the ongoing Art series of Czechoslovakia, Jirka engraved Dürer's Feast of the Rosary, an oil-painting from 1506. It is 'just' a detail, the part which shows Dürer's self-portrait.

That theme is continued on the official first day cover which, as mentioned before, is also hand-engraved (and printed from the master die). The cover shows a self-portait which Dürer painted in 1498, when he was 26 years of age.

Here is a larger version of the engraving.

I will have mentioned before that Czechoslovakia was so lucky as to have Mlada Fronta, a periodical which held an annual stamp poll. One of the categories in the poll was 'Engraver's Interpretation of a Work of Art' which, more than the Best Stamp category, really focused on an engraver's artistic talent. Jirka won in 1971 with his Dürer stamp.

The great thing for us collectors is that every year Mlada Fronta produced a special folder with the results of the poll and this folder included one or sometimes even more specially engraved sheetlets. Normally these sheetlets would be a link to the stamp voted Best Stamp, but in 1971, Jirka was allowed to engrave a sheetlet connected to his Dürer stamp. He reverted to the 1498 self-portrait and engraved a larger version, of the head only.

It's amazing, when you compare the two, how similar the engravings are, even though the first day cover is only half the size of the Mlada Fronta sheetlet version.

Jirka went on to win this particular category two more times, but unfortunately I can't show you the winning stamps (yet), because I do not own these. However, a full list of all winners, with many images, can be found HERE.