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Certificate for George Schnabel and Margaret Sahm

ca. 1800
Origin: America, Pennsylvania
Primary Support; irreg.: 14 7/8 x 9 5/8in. (37.8 x 24.4cm) and Framed: 19 5/8 x 14 3/16 x 3/4in.
Ink and watercolor on laid paper
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 2008.305.5
A vertical-format marriage, birth, and immigration document having Fraktur-style text in black, with the two primary subjects' names appearing in red. A decorative border at the top consists of plants with multi-colored blooms on either side of three musicians (two playing violins and one blowing a horn). At the bottom, is a row of plants bearing multi-colored blooms. A striped border and a solid green border enclose the whole. Interior striped borders separate text from decorative borders.
The 1 13/16-inch splayed frame with a flat outer edge is painted a medium gray-green and is a modern replacement, possibly added at the time of the object's most recent conservation treatment (before acquisition by AARFAM).
Label:Like many known Pennsylvania German fraktur artists, Spangenberg was a schoolmaster. Prior to discovery of his name, he was often called "The Easton Bible Artist," Easton being the seat of Northampton County, Pennsylvania, where he lived and predominantly worked. Nevertheless, his distinctive certificates were made for residents of several eastern Pennsylvania counties, and a few were done for New Jersey residents.

Spangenberg's decorative, frieze-like borders incorporate colorful, intricately-detailed motifs that recall the illuminations of earlier European manuscripts and form a visual link to medieval practice. Several of the artist's certificates include two to five musicians, who strike up bows and sound horns in spirited accompaniement to their moving feet and impart a sense of jubilation to the largely conventional wording.

In this case, the text is unusual in the type and length of the information it conveys. Simple birth and baptismal certificates were the commonest decorated documents created by Pennsylvania Germans in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Here, Spangenberg recorded the European births and baptisms of his subjects, George and Margaret Schnabel, but he also documented George's immigration to America, the couple's marriage, and the fact that they had four sons and three daughters.

Spangenberg was bilingual. At least two of his certificates were inscribed in English.

Provenance:Private owner in Pennsylvania (per Sotheby's catalogue for sale no. NO8097); sold at Sotheby's, NY, 19 May 25, 2005; sold at Pook & Pook, Downingtown, Pa., 25 October 2008, whence bought by CWF.
Mark(s):The primary support bears both the watermark "P ULRICK" (for Peter Ulrick) and a countermark fleur-de-lis. See Gravell & Miller ("Bibliography").
Inscription(s):The text is written in ink or watercolor in Gothic-style lettering; most letters are black in color, but the two primary subjects' names appear in red. The transcription below was reviewed and corrected as needed by Pastor Larry Neff, 4/10/2009:

"Georg Schnabel/ist geboren den 27ten September im/Jahr 1721 in Klingenmunster in/der Chur-Pfaltz in Europa; sein Vatter/war Ludwig Schnabel und die Mutter/Christina seine Tauffzeugen waren Georg/Rohrer und Appelonia Lutzin. Bey erwach/senen Jahren ist Er in America angelangt, und/darauf mit Margaretha geborne Sahmin den/16ten December 1757 Ehelich getraut worden haben/mit einander 4 söhne und 3 Töchter erzeuget . . . /Margaretha Schnabel/ist geboren den 28ten October 1729 aus/Nassau bey Weikersheim in Hohenloischen in Europa/Ihr Vatter war Andreas Sahm u. die Mutter Barbara/Ihre Tauffzeugen Johannes Schur u. seine frau. Mar=/garetha Barbara . . ."

A translation (Sotheby's New York catalogue for sale 19 May 2005, reviewed and corrected by Pastor Larry Neff 4/10/2009) reads:

"George Schnabel was born 27 September 1721 in Klingenmunster in the state of the Palatinate in Europe. His father was Ludwig Schnabel, his mother Christina. Witnesses to his baptism were George Rohrer and Appelonia Lutzin. When he reached adulthood, he came to America. He married Margaret Sahm on 16 December 1757. They had four sons and three daughters. Margaret Schnabel was born 28 October 1729 at Nassau Weikersheim in Hohenlohe in Europe. Her father was Andreas Sahm, and her mother was Barbara. Witnesses at her baptism were Johannes Schur and his wife Margaretha Barbara."