EVERYONE paints in the family which has been chosen as the latest designers of Vatican stamps. Mrs. Piero Grassellini, a 4,8-year old ro Italian from Florence. had to overcome family hostility to become a painter and her husband. also a Florentine, and an architect, caught the painting hug from his wife. Their 20 year-old son, Giuliano, has already had several shows in Italy. Mr. and Mrs. Grassellini have been designing Vatican stamps since 1957 and have 17 series to their credit. Their latest works are a series of four stamps commemorating the 19th centenary of St. Paul's arrival in Rome and another series honouring the first 100 years of the Vatican City daily. L'OsservaFore Romano. The latter set Is pictured above.
As a child Mrs. Grassellini loved to draw and paint and wanted to become an artist. However. her family told her it was a waste of time and instead insisted on her learning embroidery as being more suitable and useful an art for a future wife and mother.
Despite her family's insistence, she
continued to draw po sible and began visiting Florence's museums to copy the famous masterpieces housed there. Though not enrolled in any course, she was later able to attend the Florence Academy of Art as an auditor. In 1938 she married her husband and he too became interested in painting. When the couple moved to Rome. Mrs. GrusselHui began visiting the Valiant picture galleries. where she began specializing in painting miniatures of its masterpieces. Visitors became interested in her work and bought her output as she finished It. In mid-1957. an official of the Vatican City governor's office stopped at her worktable in the Vatican gallery one day and asked: " Madam, would you like to design a stamp for the Vatican post office 7' With only seven days to work in. Mrs. Grassellini produced a series of designs commemorating the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which were accepted by' the Vatican officials. Designers arc not appointed and it is possible that more than one artist will be employed by the Vatican to design its stamps.
Since then she and her husband have continued to design Vatican stamps. Her husband concentrates on those parts of the drawings which call for architectural techniques.
Probably the greatest crisis the Grassellini family have faced was brought about by the death
of Pope Pius XII in 1958. A special series. called the Seder Vacanie (Vacant See). had to be produced immediately. The couple were given orders at 5 p.m. one afternoon to produce a suitable design by 8 a.m. the following morning. With only 15 hours at their disposal, they worked together front 5 p.m. to It) that night. Then Mrs. Grassellini went to bed while her husband continued until 3 11.111. when she relieved him. At S a.m. they delivered the completed design, perfect in every detail and ready for printing.
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Normally when assigned a cornmission, Mr. and Mrs. Grassellini will submit draft designs:, usually more than one, to the postal authorities. The final decision is often left to the Pope. Whim they were working on the series commemorating the coronation of Pope John XXIII. Mrs. Grassellini attended papal audiencies and sketched the Pope as he talked.
Once the Vatican approves a design, the drawing is sent to the Italian State Polygraphic Press. Although the presses often cannot reproduce accurately the delicate colours employed by the artist couple. the stamps of Vatican City have won awards for their excellence.
Another designer of Vatican stamps is Casimira Dobrowska, who until 1957 designed the bulk of the issues.