Apr 13 2012: A Sheet of Six Moroccan Stamps (Collection de Timbres Post, Date Unknown)

A set of six used stamps on a postcard, showing variations on the image of a man I assume, from that ‘Royaume du Maroc’ tagline, to be the king of Morocco, though the general effect is not unlike Andy Warhol’s near-contemporary arrays of differently coloured silkscreen portraits of celebrities and collectors. Here, the King is seen on stamps of slightly varying size, set against pastel shades that range from mint green and pink to powder blue, just as Warhol’s Marilyn found herself presented against similar blue, red and gold backgrounds, like the product for sale in a range of attitudes she largely was to the media of her day. Here, the product on sale is not only the stamp but the concept of monarchy as a stabilising and immovable force. Before the days of mass media, the iconic portrait of the monarch, emperor or other leader on coins and other official objects, invested with the legal power of the State, was the main way that the image of that leader would be known by those subject to his or her authority. The defamiliarising element here, of a royal portrait unknown to viewers from outside the specific context that produced these stamps, perhaps helps to expose, just a little, the arbitrary nature of these traditions and figureheads: we’re so used to the sculpted profile of Elizabeth II appearing on our banknotes, coins and stamps that she and her meaning have become curiously invisible.

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