Hearst Castle artwork to grace 2009 Christmas stamp

National and state officials are expected at a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony Tuesday for a Christmas stamp featuring a 17th century artwork from Hearst Castle.

The U.S. Postal Service expects to print 600 million of the stamps featuring a Madonna and child image by Italian artist Giovanni Battista Salvi (1609-1685), also known as Sassoferrato.

The stamps say “Christmas” at the top and “Sassoferrato” and “Hearst Castle” below the image.

Every year since 1978, the postal service has featured a Madonna and child image on each “traditional” Christmas stamp.

Among those expected to participate Tuesday are Ruth Coleman, California State Parks director; James Bilbray of the postal service Board of Governors; and Hoyt Fields, Castle museum director.

The original painting will be on display. It usually hangs in a third-floor sitting room in Casa Grande, part of the Castle’s Tour 3 route.

Fields said the postal service paid $1,000 to use the image.

Publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst purchased the painting at a New York gallery in 1926.

San Simeon Postmaster Kathy Wilson, a Cambria resident, will be among postal officials handling the sales of stamp sheets, first-day-of-issue cancellations and ceremony programs Tuesday through Friday near the fountain at the visitor center.

Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and “Winter Holiday” stamps were issued Oct. 8 and 9.

Another 2009 stamp set includes images from the Central Coast.

A panel of stamps depicting a kelp forest with 27 species of marine life found in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was released Oct. 1 at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The sanctuary extends from Cambria to north of San Francisco.

Stamp issuance ceremony

A ceremony marking the first day of issue of a stamp featuring artwork from Hearst Castle is set for 11 a.m. Tuesday at the landmark’s main terrace.

The public can attend but must register by phone at 866-268-3243 and arrive at the Hearst Castle Visitor Center by 10:30 a.m.

Sheets of the 44 cent commemorative stamp, cachet envelopes, first-day-of-issue cancellations and official ceremony programs will be offered for sale at the visitor center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.

See the artwork

See the works of Italian artist Giovanni Battista Salvi (1609-1685) — also known as Sassoferrato and whose work is displayed at Hearst Castle — at www.sassoferrato.info.