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Vatican postal service prepared a unique set of commemorative stamps designed by a talented, yet unlikely, artist: a prisoner serving a life sentence.The Vatican Christmas stamps will feature images of the Annunciation and of Mary holding baby Jesus painted by Marcello D’Agata, an inmate at Milan’s Opera prison.A brochure for the stamps from the Vatican post office said that choosing artwork painted by a prison inmate was a response to Pope Francis’ call for compassion toward the imprisoned and for efforts to help them see that prison is not just the end of a life of crime but the beginning of a new life.

D’Agata’s painting of the Annunciation feature Mary looking skyward as the Archangel Gabriel, holding a small bouquet of white lilies, gazes at her. Directly above Mary is a white dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, with light beams emanating from its outstretched wings. The second stamp depicts Mary after the Nativity, her hands holding the infant Christ and nestling the sleeping child in a maternal embrace. A single red candle near them is lit while the star of Bethlehem radiates light from above.

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The set of seven stamps feature historic paintings of the birth of Jesus Christ.

The “Adoration of the Magi” (1520-1525) by Bernardino Luini will feature on the 22p stamp. Luini was a North Italian painter from Leonardo Da Vinci’s circle and said to have worked with him directly.

Fra Angelico’s “Nativity” (1437-1445) is on the 40p stamp. Fra Angelico was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance and was described as having “rare and perfect talent” in Lives of the Artists.

The 64p stamp features “The Nativity” from “Adoration of the Magi” by Gentile Da Fabriano, an Italian painter known for his participation in the International Gothic painter style.

The “Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherd” by Bernardino Luini will feature on the 70p stamp. Luini was also said to work with Leonardo.

Gentile da Fabriano’s “The Adoration of the Magi” also features on the 80p stamp.

The £2 stamp is of Giotto di Bondone’s “Adoration of the Magi”. Known as Giotto, he was an Italian painter and architect from Florence during the late Middle Ages. He worked during the Gothic and Proto-Renaissance period.

“Holy Family” by Johann Martin Metz (1790) will feature on the £3 stamp. He was a kurkölnisch court painter in Bonn. Metz was employed at an early stage of his career at the court of the Prince Elector, Clemens August in Cologne.

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