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Birth and Baptismal Certificate for Jonathan Schaffer

Origin: America, Pennsylvania, Snyder County (n. 1)
Primary support: 12 3/8" x 15 1/4" and Framed: 17 5/8" x 20 1/2"
Watercolor, pencil, and ink on wove paper
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1963.305.5
A horizontal-format certificate, a heart in the center enclosing text. Two peacocks perch on the upper edges of the heart. From the top of the heart, two, large-leaved plants sprout and, in the center between them, is a colorful circular design above a small, 8-pointed star. To either side of the heart is a spray of tulip blooms. At lower left are another tulip spray, two birds on branches, and three stems bearing round pink flowers. At lower right are a bird on a branch, two stems bearing round pink flowers, and a full-length standing woman shown in profile to the left, wearing a yellow dress, and holding a wreath on which a bird perches. A signature appears at lower left.

The 2 3/4-inch black-painted molded wood frame is possibly original.
Label:Jonathan Schaffer's birth and baptismal certificate is typical of Francis Portzline's mid-century work in its precise execution and dense application of paint. Peacocks were the most elaborate birds the artist used on certificates. Here their tiny feet break into the border of the heart, cleverly drawing attention to the written record it encloses.

The interlaced design at the base of the heart is one of several calligraphic flourishes observed in Portzline's work. His birds on slender twigs and the woman holding the wreath (and bird) at lower right undoubtedly were inspired by the hand-drawn and/or printed certificates of other fraktur artists, but Portzline's interpretation of the motifs is distinctive and innovative. The script lines at the bottom of the heart were taken from a well-known Lutheran hymn that is still sung today.

Portzline's early work was influenced by Arnold Hoevelmann who, probably not coincidentally, made a birth and bapismal certificate for Portzline's wife, Sabina Heiges. Several Portzline certificates made for the artist's family members exist, in addition to numerous others made for unrelated individuals. Portzline served as a schoolmaster in Snyder County, Pennsylvania (which, for most of his life, was part of Union County, hence the reference to Union in his text).
Provenance:Ownership prior to CWF's source, Herbert Schiffer Antiques, is undocumented.
Inscription(s):Handwritten In ink in script in the lower left corner is: "Francis Portzline".

Handwritten in ink within the heart, the upper part in fraktur-style lettering, the lower in script, is:
[upper part]: "Geburt und/Tauf schein/Diesen beiden Ehegatten/als. Wilhelm Schäffer und/seine Eheliche hausfrau barba/:ra ein Tochter von Johan/German ist ein Sohn zur welt Geboren den 14 ten august/im Jahr unsers Erlösers 1844 dieser Sohn ist Geboren in/Perry taunschip in Uni on Caunty im Staat Pennsyl-/-vania und ist Getauft worden von dem Ehrwürdigen Prediger/G. Erlenmeier und erhielt durch die heilige Taufe den na-/-men jonathan die taufzeu_gen waren Johan. German und/barbara seine Ehfrau"
[lower part]: "Ich bin getauft in deinem Namen Gott Vater Sohn/une Heiliger Geist, ich bin gezählt zu deinem Saamen, zum Volck das/dir geheiliget heist. O, welch ein glück ward dadurch/mein Herr lass mich desen würdig seyn."

The English translation reads: [upper part]: "Birth and Baptismal Certificate. To these two married people, namely Wilhelm Schaffer and his lawful wife, Barbara, a daughter of Johan German, a son was born into the world the 14th of August in the year of our Redeemer 1844. This son was born in Perry Township in Union County in the state of Pennsylvania, and was baptized by the Honorable Preacher G. Erlenmeier and received the name Jonathan in Holy Baptism. The sponsors were Johan German and Barbara, his wife.
[lower part]: Baptized into Thy name most holy, O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I claim a place though meek and lowly, Among Thy seed, Thy chosen host. Buried with Christ and dead to sin, Thy Spirit now shall live within."