Longtime AAM Museum Store manager Sharon Yurkanin is always looking for fresh ways to share the wonders of the Museum’s collection. Thanks to her savvy, the Store currently carries a mug featuring the face of Rembrandt’s Young Woman, a book on Franz Kline that includes the background story of AAM’s Lehighton mural, patterns for recreating several textile samplers in the collection, Frank Lloyd Wright-related items that pay homage to our Wright-designed Little Library, and more.

So perhaps it isn’t that surprising that this summer Sharon hatched the idea of submitting one of the Museum’s paintings for consideration as a Christmas stamp.

After a sharp-eyed wander through Kress Gallery, Sharon spied the work she felt was a natural to be featured by the United States Postal Service as a holiday-related commemorative postage stamp. In late August she sent off a letter and images of the work to the USPS’s Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee in Washington D.C. The letter read:

Hello! The staff of the Allentown Art Museum would love to have one of our paintings featured on a U.S. stamp, and we think we have the perfectly appropriate image to grace a Christmas card or letter.

We’ve noticed that your previous holiday stamps have depicted works from regional as well as metropolitan museums across the nation. As a smallish museum with an important but perhaps under appreciated collection, we believe that our painting of the Madonna and Child tenderly embracing would make a beautiful and popular yuletide season stamp, and we respectfully, hopefully, and proudly submit this image for your consideration.

Painted on a wooden panel by Florentine artist Biagio d’Agostino Tucci in the 15th century, most likely produced for private devotion, the richly colored scene conveys the loving bond that joins mother and child. Mary sits on a kind of altar, emphasizing the sacramental role of her son. Further alluding to his sacrifice, in a show of protection, she grasps his foot in her hand.

This painting was bequeathed to the Allentown Art Museum in 1960 by Samuel H. Kress, founder of the S. H. Kress Five & Ten Cent stores. With his generous gifts to numerous regional museums, Kress made art accessible to millions of Americans in areas where access to such masterworks would otherwise have been extremely limited.  Read more about the Kress Collection here.

Your selection of this artwork to appear on a U.S. stamp would pay forward Sam Kress’s generous spirit!

Sharon Yurkanin, Museum Store & Visitor Services Manager

Three photocopied images were included with the letter in a manila envelope, and off it went.

Of course, the USPS is inundated with scores of worthy stamp ideas every year. So imagine Sharon’s delight when she received a call on October 14 about the Museum’s submission! Mike Owens, an image researcher with a company called PhotoAssist, was asking for a higher-resolution image of the Kress painting. He explained in a follow-up email:

Thank you so much for sending the file. It’s really beautiful. This is with the USPS now. The pathway to approval is a pretty long one. And right at the moment there isn’t a need for a Madonna and Child painting for a stamp. (The USPS has several in the “bank” prepared for future issuances.)

That said, I’ll keep in touch to let you know what’s happening. If USPS decides to do a layout in the stamp format, I’ll be sure to let you know. You’ll want to see how the painting is cropped to fit the stamp format.

The higher-res image was emailed—and now we wait for word. Even if the wait is a long one, though, the fact that the AAM’s Kress painting is receiving recognition is a satisfying feeling for Sharon to savor, at least until her next brainstorm strikes for ways to feature the collection.