The notorious Lithuanian philatelic agency, Stamperija, was given a contract by Maldives Post to produce philatelic products on its behalf in 2013 (see Blog 286) and in the past 2 years has released literally hundreds of "stamps" and "souvenir sheets" with the country's name printed on them with a total face value running into hundreds of pounds. Many of these philatelic products have depicted subjects with little or no relevance to Maldives and there is no real evidence that I have yet seen that suggests that they are receiving normal day-to-day usage on genuine mail in the country.
Maldives is a proudly Islamic country and one would expect that "stamps" bearing the country's name, issued with its postal administration's permission, would adhere to the country's Islamic principles.
In its rush to add to the large number of items inscribed "Maldives" Stamperija has placed on sale in the philatelic market its latest emission which features western art through the ages. Given the devout Islamic nature of the Maldivian state, at least a couple of items in this new set are quite shocking.
The set, as usual, consists of 10 sheetlets each of 4 different "stamps" and 10 accompanying "souvenir sheets"; the subjects of the individual subsets are:- Renaissance art, Post-Impressionism, Surrealism, Symbolism, Romanticism, Realism, Dutch golden age art, Impressionism, Baroque art and Cubism.
The design of the "Post-Impressionism" "miniature sheet" depicts the painting completed by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec around 1894 which is titled "In the Salon of the Rue des Moulins" which features a number of women, one or two being scantily clad, waiting for clients under the gaze of their Madam. A favourite of Toulouse-Lautrec, a prostitute at the brothel in the Rue D'Amboise, Mirelle, is shown in the foreground, with her right hand around her drawn-up leg.
The painting's title is incorrect as it depicts a scene in the brothel in the Rue D'Amboise where Mirelle plied her trade rather than that in the Rue des Moulins. Apparently Toulouse-Lautrec produced about 50 paintings and 100 drawings set in brothels between 1892 and 1895. He only began to frequent the salon in Rue des Moulins after Mirelle departed for Argentina. Toulouse-Lautrec died in 1901.
The subject of this design is quite shocking given the context that it was prepared in the name of a devoutly Islamic country. One suspects that the Maldives authorities had little or no idea of what was being produced in the country's name. Surely someone responsible there must reconsider whether its contract with Stamperija is appropriate, no matter what the financial benefits to Maldives are derived from it, given this appallingly inappropriate issue.
Inappropriate for another reason is the "Renaissance" sheetlet in which 1 "stamp" not only depicts a painting of the Madonna and Child by Antonello de Messina but also in which a second design depicts the Christian saint, Catherine of Alexandria, by Raphael. I can not believe that this depiction of Christian icons is in any way acceptable to the postal administration of a devoutly Moslem country. But apparently it is. The stated date of issue of these products is 25 August 2015.
Has Stamperija gone too far this time in its attempts to squeeze money out of stamp collectors?