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Birth and Baptismal Certificate for Peter Hoffmann (1793-1884)

Origin: America, Pennsylvania, Berks County (probably)
Primary Support: 13 x 16 3/8in. (33 x 41.6cm) and Framed: 16 5/16 x 19 1/2in.
Watercolor and ink on wove paper
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1958.305.3
A horizontally formatted certificate with, at top center, a large, bulbous motif consisting of two red ovals overlapping a brown circle, with four small yellow points (or petals) at the intersections of the two larger forms. A vine trails off the top center motif to the right; another, longer, extends off to the left and down the side of the sheet bearing various flower blooms and buds. The right side shows a soldier on a green mound. The bottom center motif consists of a vertical tulip blossom flanked by two larger horizontal ones. All these pictorial motifs frame a block of text executed in green and brown.

The 1 3/4-inch splayed, black-painted frame is probably a period replacement.
Label:As in this example, a number of Hoevelmann's certificates bear images of military officers, and because one of the first to be identified was a York County [Pennsylvania] piece, the artist was once called "the York County General Artist." Hoevelmann made a habit of secreting his monogram ("H") within his compositions; here, the letter lays sideways in the form of stamens extending horizontally from the lowermost of the three flower buds on the righthand side of the vine at the left.

Hoevelmann's decorations often include the small flower on the same vine positioned opposite the soldier's lower hand. The unusual dominant motif at center top is an enlarged and elongated version of the same bloom.

The overall forms of Hoevelmann's motifs may be loosely rendered, but many bear fine details. For example, the soldier's outfit includes tassels on his boots and sword guard, meticulously placed rows of buttons on his coat, and tiny spurs. The object he extends in front of him may be a targe, a lightweight shield.

The subject, Peter Hoffmann (Hoffman), was the son of George Hoffmann (1759-1811) and his wife, Anna Maria Fahr (or Fair) Hoffmann (1760-1852). On February 4, 1817, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania, he married Margaret Mock (1796-1846). The two had sixteen children between 1818 and 1845. Peter died June 19, 1884, in Caernarvon, Berks County, Pennsylvania.

Provenance:Ownership prior to Robert Carlen, CWF's source, is undocumented.
Inscription(s):Handwritten in ink in fraktur-style lettering on the front is:
"Diese beÿden Ehegatten als Georg Hoffmann/ und seine Ehe Frau Maria/ist ein Sohn zur Welt gebohren als Peter/ist gebohren im Jahr Christi 1793 den 8 Tag/September um 3 Uhr morgens im Zeichen der Waag/Getauft durch Pfarrherr Friderich Illin d. 27/Taufzeugen Johannes Keller und seine Ehe Frau Catharina/Gebohren im Staat Pensilvanien/in Bercks Cauntÿ in Robeson Taunschip/Gott allein die Ehre."
The English translation reads:
"To these two married people, namely George Hoffmann and his wife, Maria, a son was born into the world, namely Peter, was born in the year of Christ 1793 the eighth day of September at three o'clock A. M. in the sign of Libra. Baptism by Pastor Friederich Illin the 27th. Sponsors Johannes Keller and his wife, Catharine. Born in the state of Pennsylvania in Berks County in Robeson Township. Glory to God alone."

A script-style "H" masquerades as stamens in the small lowermost flower bloom on the inside of the vine on the left side of the picture, about opposite the soldier's knees. Pastor Frederick S. Weiser and others note the artist's repetitive use of this emblem, believing it to have been used as a signature or trademark.

A four-line ink script inscription on the back of the primary support is only partially legible. It appears to read: "Margrat M[ock] was Born in month 3/in the year of our lord 1796/and god [sic] marit [sic] [tha?] fabruary 4 1817/And Dide [sic] March 17 1846". See n. 1.

Two scrolling stamens extending horizontally to the right from the bud immediately above the lower left flower bloom are believed to be the artist's "H" monogram.