This project combined three of our favorite things: design, illustration, and storytelling. In the Christian Christmas story the three kings follow the star of Bethlehem — a shining light in the sky — to find their way to baby Jesus. So I decided to use light as a guiding principle for this four-part Christmas stamp series. The three kings and all the other protagonists and props of the story are depicted as white outlines, permeated by light, against a background that references the spectrum of light — the colors of the rainbow. It is a visual narrative from cool to warm colors on the color spectrum. Made with brushes, watercolor, Photoshop and InDesign.
The basis for the line drawings used for these stamps are woodcuts that were the first images of the three kings to be printed in a book, in the year 1480, in the “Historia Trium Regum” (The History of the Three Kings) by John of Hildesheim. I worked from a 1963 paperback version of the book, that, as a side note, was designed by the inimitable Celestino Piatti.
John of Hildesheim’s book was first published in 1364 (its authorship, however, is disputed). It is not a work of history, but a fascinating kind of imagining, or justification, commissioned by the church, of the biblical three kings, including their lives before and after their popular Christmas adventure. John of Hildesheim’s narrative caught people's imagination (with the help of dogma) and has done so for centuries. But even before John of Hildesheim wrote his account of the three kings, the story had been shifting shape for hundreds of years already, starting in the 4th century: At times there were six kings, at other times they were not kings but magicians, and only one of the four evangelists, Matthew, tells of these characters in the bible, the other three have no account of them. This, among other things, illustrates how all stories, and all histories, too, are in flux. And how storytelling is such a powerful human activity, an unstoppable force, with its aims and mechanics often, maybe too often, shielded from any critical examination.