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Mauritius
Native and Contemporary Art 
from the Island in the Indian Ocean, off the South African Coast

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Not much Mauritian modern and contemporary art has been reproduced on stamps, so it was somewhat a sensation when the island decided in 1999 to issue a nice set of modern art stamps showing local (indigenous) art, consisting of four stamps.  They are all shown on this page together with some stamps of the national bird, the dodo, which is also depicted on the corresponding first day cover.  

Hervé Masson was born on 17 January 1919 at Curepipe.  He left Mauritius in 1949 for France where he had a brillant career as an artist.  Many of his paintings were exhibited in prestigious art galleries.  He returned to Mauritius in 1970 and went back to France in 1973, where he continued to exhibit his paintings.  His works of art are found in important collections in France, Netherlands, Germany, USA, Canada and Mexico.  

Mauritius 1999. Hervé Masson "Washer Women". His paintings can also be found at the Musée de Sceaux and Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris. He died in Paris on 13 May 1990 at the age of 71.  The stamp íllustrates "Les Lavandières" and the scene shows ladies washing clothes in a river.  Issued 18th June 1999. 
  • Mauritius 1999.  Hervé Masson:  "Washer Women". 

Born in 1912 at Villehague, Pamplemousses, Gaëtan de Rosnay studied art in France.  He came back to Mauritius to work in the plantation belonging to his parents.  He joined a group of local artists led by Max Boullé and started his career as an artist. He obtained several prizes for his paintings, among others Le Prix de la Société de Beaux Arts in 1957.  He was one of the founders of the Salon de la Biennale de Paris.  

Some renowned museums of France, Rambouillet and Versailles, own some of his paintings.  He died in 1992 in France at the age of 80.  The stamp features "Le Casino", showing the roulette in the foreground.  Issued 18th June 1999. 
  • Mauritius 1999. Gaétan de Rosnay:  "The Casino". 
Mauritius 1999. Gaétan de Rosnay. "The Casino".

Mauritius 1999. First Day Cover.

Andrée Poilly, born Bécherel, is specially known for her abstract paintings.  She was born on 13 February 1905 and started her career as a teacher.  Her passion for painting led her to join the group of artists consisting, among others, of Hervé Masson and Serge Constantin.  She left Mauritius to emigrate to England, where she exhibited her paintings.  She also made several exhibitions in Canada.  She died on 23 December 1990 in Quebec.  

Mauritius 1999. Andrée Poilly. "The Four Elements". The stamp illustrates "Les Quatre Éléments", an abstract painting, where the four elements of nature, Earth, Fire, Air and Water, are combined to reflect unity in diversity.  Issued 18th June 1999. 
  • Mauritius 1999.  Andrée Poilly:  "The Four Elements". 

Xavier Le Juge de Segrais was born on 16 August 1871 at Mon Goût, Pamplemousses.  Since his early childhood he was interested in art and at the age of 27, he held an exhibition of paintings, which met with success.  This enabled him to secure enough funds to travel to Paris where he enrolled himself  at the Beaux Arts.  However, due to financial difficulties, he had to return to Mauritius without completing his studies.  He was employed as an art teacher and taught at the Royal College Curepipe for almost 30 years.  

 

His paintings were exhibited locally and in Réunion, and always attracted favourable comments from art critics.  He died in February 1954. The stamp shows the "Sortie de Messe", a scene which evokes calm and peace.  Issued 18th June 1999.

  • Mauritius 1999:  Xavier Le Juge de Segrais:  "Leaving Church Service".  
Mauritius 1999. Xavier Le Juge de Segrais. "Leaving Church Service".

The cachet from the First Day Cover shows the bird "The Blue Dodo", painted by Malcolm de Chazal.  It has since become the national bird of the island and has been depicted on a number of stamps, some of which are shown on this page.  There are many other dodo-stamps world wide, but as they are all consecrated to prehistoric birds, not the Mauritian national bird, I have chosen to show only Mauritian stamps below.  

The dodo or dronte (scientific name Raphus cucullatus) was a flightless bird native only to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. The dodo was member of the pigeon family. Fully grown dodos weighed about 23 kg (50 pounds). Around 1505 the Portuguese became the first Europeans to discover the dodo. 

By 1681 it had been driven to extinction by humans and the feral dogs, pigs, rats, and monkeys introduced by Europeans to Mauritius. The dodo was not the only Mauritian bird driven to extinction in recent centuries. 

Of the 45 bird species originally found, only 21 still survive. Two bird species closely related to the dodo also became extinct: the Reunion solitaire by 1746, and the Rodrigues solitaire by 1790. 

This strange animal was soon named dodo, because of the sound they produced, like doe-doe.  The Dutch settlers ate the bird in lack of other food, but it was said to taste very bad, with the exception of the chest.  Other factors leading to the fast extinction of the bird were that the pigs and goats left on the islands by the Portuguese needed fresh food all the time, and ate most of the dodos' natural food.  Finally, the monkeys brought to Mauritius from Java by Dutch sailors, liked to have dodo-eggs for lunch ... 

Reports of sightings of living dodos in the 1990s on Mauritius prompted William J. Gibbons to mount expeditions to search for them, but none were found.  The Dodo has now become the national bird of Mauritius.  

Mauritius. Dodo. Drawing 1. Mauritius. Dodo. Drawing 2.

The below Mauritian stamps all depict the dodo. 

Mauritius 1954. Scott 261. Mauritius 1965. Scott 287. Mauritius 1992. Scott 761.

Information about the four artists is taken from the inlaid card in the First Day Cover, with kind assistance of Mr. Eric Dotezac (France). 

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Revised 26-jul-2006. Ann Mette Heindorff
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