BIOGRAPHY: Charles Mazelin

Charles Mazelin was born in Elboeuf, France, in 1882. At the age of 15 he went to the School of Decorative Arts in Paris, but was not the most diligent student. But his talent did show through, so he furthered it by going to the École des Beaux-arts in 1899. He subsequently won the Prix de Rome in 1906 and in 1908.

During the First World War, Mazelin was mobilised and wounded in Verdun, but while convalescing he created an album of patriotic etchings based on the Somme Front theme. After the war, Mazelin started working as a reproduction engraver, illustrating many books.

It was not until 1939 that Mazelin became involved in the engraving of stamps, thanks to a bit of coaxing by his friend and fellow engraver Jules Piel. Not that Mazelin needed a job, but he liked the technical challenge of engraving on such a small scale. His first stamp was one with a portrait of the poet Frédéric Mistral. But Mazelin was especially fond of the number of stamps he engraved showing landscape scenes, as part of various Views and the early Tourism series.

During the war, Mazelin got the chance to participate in engraving non-postage labels for souvenir sheets issued during the annual Paris Philatelic Exhibition. Mazelin features on all three sheets, having engraved labels depicting the Notre-Dame of Paris, ‘Soirée a l’arsenal’, and a scene from Ravel’s opera Le Boléro.

Mazelin’s non-stamp but very much philatelic engravings continued to garner much interest. At the end of the Second World War, France’s definitives would be engraved and printed in Britain, by De la Rue, on the presumption that war-torn France would not be able to produce high-quality stamps. To refute that presumption, those same stamps, in the Marianne de Dulac design, were produced in France. It was Mazelin who engraved the French version. His version is easily recognisable because the design lacks any information with regard to country name or denomination, instead having a purely decorative border. While these were never ever meant to be issued, they do exist in a large number of colours.

More stamp show work appeared in 1949, when he engraved a souvenir label depicting a lady with an umbrella looking at Pierre Gandon’s Marianne. This particular label was part of a publicity campaign celebrating the centenary of French stamps, a campaign which also saw that same Marianne being reissued in the national colours. The label was also a delicate pointer towards the friendship between the two engravers, because when Pierre Gandon had been blacklisted for a few months at the end of the war, he nevertheless kept on working, engraving a stamp portraying Sarah Bernhardt. Mazelin then signed the stamp with his name so that it could be issued.

In 1950, Mazelin engraved a stamp portraying Madame Récamier. It would become the first stamp ever to win the Grand Prix de l’art philatélique.

Charles Mazelin passed away in 1968.

You will find Charles Mazelin's database HERE.