The search for stamps representing beginnings for this week's Sunday Stamps was a fun challenge, until I got frustrated trying to find something suitable. So I went for a rather oblique representation.
This portrait, painted by Leonardo da Vinci has been described as signalling a breakthrough in the art of psychological portraiture. The subject is sitting with her head slightly turned and in the act of petting the young ermine in her lap. Until then, portraits were generally set with the sitter directly facing the artist.
The Lady with the Ermine was painted in oils on wooden panel. Oils were still a relatively new medium, at that time paints were mostly made of crushed pigments dissolved in egg whites. Leonardo was one of the artists who adopted oils and skillfully exploited its qualities.
The model is Cecilia Gallerani, the mistress of Leonardo's patron Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. Ludovico's nickname was 'the Moor' and the jet necklace Cecilia wears may be a reference to her lover. The stoat, or ermine, she holds (some sources say 'caresses') was often used in art as an emblem for pregnancy and childbirth which may suggest that Cecilia was carrying Ludovico's child. She was 15 when this portrait was painted in 1489.
The stamp was issued in November 1967 to showcase paintings from Polish Museums.