The artwork featured on the Vatican’s postage stamps for Christmas 2018 were painted by a man serving a life-sentence in a Milanese prison.
The two stamp designs, painted by Marcello D’Agata, depict the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Nativity of Christ.
The postage stamps were unveiled by Archbishop Mario Delpini of Milan at a Nov. 9 presentation in the Milan prison and can be purchased at the Vatican City post office. They are available in denominations of 1.15 or 1.10 euro ($1.29, $1.24), which is the postage required to mail directly to Europe and the Mediterranean region.
An Italian journalist had the idea for the Vatican stamps after having followed a philately initiative within the Milan prison for several years.
According to L’Osservatore Romano, a Vatican-supported newspaper, D’Agata was drawn to art from an early age. “I confess that as a child, as soon as a blank paper appeared before me, I never failed to draw on it,” he told the newspaper.
“Of course, they were just scribbles, but I liked it so much, because on those papers I gave shape and color to my emotions and, most of all, to my dreams.”
D’Agata said he had fallen away from artistic expression until a few years ago, when the director of the prison allowed a group of prisoners to take part in a drawing course, which served as a “source of inspiration and the dormant talents came back to life.”