Royal Mail 2021 Christmas stamps tell a “contemporary” Nativity story

Supple Studio has worked with Argentinian artist Jorge Cocco to craft the festive collection, which illustrates the story of the Nativity.

Royal Mail has revealed its 2021 Christmas stamp collection, featuring Nativity scenes by post-cubist artist Jorge Cocco.

The stamps have been designed by Bath-based studio Supple. As well as six separate stamp designs, Supple has also created presentation packs, first day covers, and two postmarks.

(Click gallery images above for full view).

According to studio founder Jamie Ellul, Royal Mail’s brief sought to incorporate an artist with an unusual style or use of materials, following the success of Charlie Smith Design’s 2019 paper-cut stamps.

The studio trawled the internet far and wide, Ellul explains, until they landed upon Cocco’s Instagram account. The Argentinian artist, who is now in his 80s, paints in a style he calls ‘sacrocubist’ – a way of illustrating sacred events with the stylings of the post-cubist movement.

A “celebratory” version of the Nativitity

First day cover

“It had exactly the right feel, contemporary but also very respectful of the subject matter,” Ellul says. The studio’s brief for the artist was to “tell the Nativity story without words – and to create jewel-like, colourful stamps that feel very celebratory”.

Supple worked with Royal Mail to pick a selection of Nativity scenes for the stamps, with a mix of “close crops, wider scenes and a mix of characters”, Ellul adds.

Cocco’s use of colour attracted the studio to his work, Ellul explains. “We asked him to dial up the bright colours even more,” he adds, with a colour code for different scenes.

For example blue is used for the host of angels, purple for the shepherds, and red for the Madonna and child. As well as relating to different parts of the Nativity story, the stamps’ varying colour palettes help to differentiate denominations, according to Ellul.

For the first day cover and presentation park, Supple has used Cocco’s illustrations in an attempt to unite the series visually. “The cubist angles Jorge uses in his paintings were a great way to bring the whole set together,” he says. “The abstract skies he created were just beautiful and really capture an ethereal light and feeling of holiness.”

The design team used those illustrations as an abstract background, which “frame the stamps in a really harmonious way”, Ellul adds.

Presentation pack

Fontsmith’s FS Olivia has been used for body copy on packs, while Playtype’s Berlingske Serif Stencil Black was used for the Christmas 2021 headline. The latter was chosen “as it had some of the angles and sharpness of Jorge’s work”, says Ellul.

Supple has crafted two postmarks for the Christmas collection, which both depict scenes from the Nativity. The Tallents House postmark has an angel, while the alternative Bethlehem, Llandeilo postmark shows a mother and child.

A limited number of the stamps will have barcodes, which will aid with identification and “pave the way for innovative customer services in the future”, according to Royal Mail.

What do you think of Royal Mail’s 2021 Christmas stamp series? Let us know in the comments below.

Hide Comments (13)Show Comments (13)
  • Carl St. James November 4, 2021 at 9:41 am

    I think these look wonderful! And they definitely get it right in that Jesus and family was definitely not Caucasian. That is good attention to detail.

  • Derek Reilly November 4, 2021 at 2:42 pm

    Notice the bar coded stamps are on sale in sheets of 25 . I am unable to find an option to purchase the first and 2nd class stamps non barcoded for sale in sheets of 25 . Are they for sale in sheets or just in booklets

  • Christopher Smith November 9, 2021 at 2:04 pm

    I was a huge fan of Jorges style before I saw this stamp collection, they are magnificent. I love them.

  • Ruth Jamieson November 12, 2021 at 2:37 pm

    They are so beautiful! Like a kaleidoscope of jeweled art. The scenes are just breathtaking! I don’t think I could lick the stamp and put them on an envelope, I’d want to frame them. I want them!

  • David Ross November 15, 2021 at 11:40 am

    Beautiful and striking colours and designs which imaginatively capture the Christmas story. Thank you Jorge Cocco and Supple Studio.

  • T Simmons November 20, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    Beautiful stamps ,a treat to look at but spoilt by the non removable barcode.

  • Barbara Hope November 25, 2021 at 12:01 pm

    Jorge Cocco’s ‘sacrocubist’ designs on the 2021 Christmas stamps are truly the most beautiful I have ever seen! Wonderful! I must look for more of his work. Happy Christmas, Jorge. XXX

  • SL November 27, 2021 at 6:40 pm

    Bought some 2nd Class postage stamps. Luv the colour. Tried to make sense of the picture. Thought they were angels with rays of light on them. Then thought it was the Nativity scene. Even tried examining under a magnifying glass. Hhhmm.
    Now understand it is a style of art. Apologies for ignorence. But appreciate the colour.

  • AIM December 2, 2021 at 1:28 pm

    Interesting comments re the 1st Class stamps. I must admit that I had to use a magnifying glass to appreciate the image. I think that the area in and around the faces – the centre point – could be brighter to take the eye directly to the mother and child. My wife is an artist with quite a broad appreciation of artistic styles also had to use a magnifying glass. Perhaps a rating of 4 out of 10 applies.

  • Richmond Skelly December 6, 2021 at 2:05 am

    They look awful. Would much prefer the traditional look. The barcode spoils the look of the stamp.

  • David Thomas December 8, 2021 at 4:13 pm

    Design too detailed for such a small space. Didnt know what the design was until I saw it on a screen

  • Alan Rowland December 9, 2021 at 5:44 pm

    Tried to read the barcode – it took me to TikTok and tried to get me to download – not pleased at all!

  • Neil Howard December 11, 2021 at 7:54 pm

    These versions of the Christmas stamps are totally useless and not fit for the purpose of being a stamp. If I had realised that the blue QR code area was part of the stamp (I had assumed the stamp part would detach) I would have bought standard second class stamps.
    I am not impressed when so called ‘art work’ overrides functionality on a product like a stamp.
    Definitely not impressed.
    Could do significantly better especially as the Post Office is trying to gain custom not lose it.

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