Stamps of the Arabian Nights, Part 11

Arabian Nights 300th Anniversary

Arabian Nights 300th Anniversary

This stamp was issued in 2004 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Les Mille et Une Nuit.  It was in 1704 that the first European language translation, and specific identification of a text of The Thousand and One Nights was published in France.  Antoine Galland was the translator.  His translation was fortunately based on the longest and oldest surviving manuscript.

I like the simplicity of this stamp, the single colour with the white line for the illustration.  It reminds me of the older, engraved, stamps of yore, of which I am partial to.  The depiction of Scheherazade and King Shahryar is an unusual one.  Scheherazade is leaning against a balcony rail under a moon-lit sky with a mosque in the background.  A peacock is present, apparently crying out to the moon.  I’ve never heard a peacock crying to the moon, but I have heard them singing at dawn, much like any other bird (except that they sound like cats, meowing).  Shahryar appears to be asleep in a canopied bed, much like the beds depicted in 18th century illustrations of the two.  See this post for a couple of examples. Dunyázád is absent from the scene, something that was common in later illustrations of this scene.

The fact that Shahryar is asleep and Dunyázád is absent kind of throws the whole frame story off.  It is Dunyázád who asks Scheherazade to tell a story to while away the remaining hours of night.  If Shahryar is sleeping through the night, things will not go well for Scheherazade when he awakes in the morning.  A depiction of the period before everyone awakes and the stories begin is certainly different.  It kind of misses the point.  There is no tension in this scene.  The stories are absent and so is the threat of death, and resultant salvation through story.  If it wasn’t for the text on the stamp there would be no way to know that this was an Arabian Nights theme stamp.  Still, it is nice to see the 300th anniversary getting some sort of recognition.

The Principality of Monaco is a sovereign city state bordered on three sides by France with the Mediterranean on the south-east side.  It has a land area of about 2 square kilometers.  The city I live in has 4 times the population and nearly 1400 times the land mass.  Monaco, though, is basically the personal property of the House of Grimaldi, who have ruled the area since the 13th century.  According to Wikipedia, Monaco has the highest density of millionaires and billionaires per capita in the world.  Just as well because real estate goes for around $53,300 per square metre.

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