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Republic 100-  Ceres SI

Republic 100- Ceres

Republic, the Portuguese Mail Services’ (CTT – Correios de Portugal) opportune initiative to launch a philatelic issue that reproduces the original of the very first republican stamp is of particular significance.

This new Ceres stamp reinterprets Constantino Fernandes’ original design from 1911 by means of a technique that combines intaglio and offset, a process that is quite rare in Portugal and which conveys to this issue a very special feature and exceptional quality.
After the revolution of the 5 October 1910 and the implantation of the Republic, the authorities immediately considered the need for introducing new post stamps. The aim was not only to make the new republican institutions known all over the world, but also to replace the effigy of the dethroned king on the circulating stamps.

However, given that the production of a stamp issue is a complex and slow procedure, it was decided by decree of the Minister for Development, of the 13 October 1910, that “until new postage stamps are issued” the National Mint (Casa da Moeda e Papel Sellado) shall print the Word “Republic” (“República”) diagonally across the currently circulating stamps.”
Meanwhile, and according to republican thoughts, it seemed fit that the first postage stamp issued by the new regime should be subject to a true and equal selection procedure, more in line with a public tender.

Therefore, on the 4 February 1911, by order of the Minister for Development, Manuel Brito Camacho, an add was published containing “the terms and conditions of the public tender for the project of the design of a new postage stamp”; these conditions were changed on 14 February with the justification that it was necessary to “broaden the terms and conditions of the tender as much as possible” and extend the deadline for submitting the works until 17 March. 

This tender, that was only open to national artists, set the rules as well as the text and size of the designs which were to be delivered in a sealed envelope showing an  alias so as to keep the anonymity of the authors.

The evaluation of the works was carried out by a jury of five leading figures, among which stood out: António Maria da Silva, Director-General of the Post and Telegraph Services; two representatives of the Academy of Fine Arts; the painter José Malhoa and a member of the Board of the National Mint. The composition of the jury was later changed on account of the painter José Malhoa’s last minute impediment; he was replaced by Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro, a top figure of Portuguese plastic arts. 

It is not known exactly how many designs were submitted but it is estimated that they were as many as thirty.  The results led to the awarding of two first prizes, one to Constantino Fernandes (for the stamp of the Portuguese Mainland), and another to Artur de Melo (for the Azores stamp).

However, perhaps due to the need to launch the first Republic stamp, only Constantino Fernandes’ Ceres stamps were printed.

Constantino Fernandes’ red pencil drawing representing the Roman goddess Ceres, symbolizing the Republic, wearing a Phrygian cap and with the Portuguese coat of arms on her chest, is considered one of the most beautiful postage stamps produced up to this day.

However, and according to some specialists, after having been printed the stamp did not live up to the artistic quality of the drawing made by the great painter, both owing to the great complexity which the execution of the engraving involved, as well as to the lack of technical quality of the equipment used in those days by the National Mint.

A hundred years later, the Portuguese Postal Services rightfully bestow on this beautiful original the dignity that it is worthy of.

Fernando Moura

Technical Details

Issue Date: 01.10.2010
Values: EUR 0.80, EUR 1.52
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