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Birth and Baptismal Certificate for Wilhelm Bender (b. 1805)

Probably 1811-1820
Origin: America, Virginia, Shenandoah County
Primary Support; irreg.: 7 5/8 x 9 15/16in. (19.4 x 25.2cm); object is not framed
Watercolor and ink on laid paper
Acquisition partially funded by The Antique Collectors' Guild and by individual Guild members in memory of Henry P. Deyerle and Mary Elizabeth Deyerle
Acc. No. 1993.305.3
Heavy drapery (once colored red or pink but now quite faded) is drawn up at center top and at each upper corner. Gold-colored tassels hang from the side drapes, and similar (but larger) tassels hang from cords at top center. Simulated "fringing" appears along the edge of the drapery. An angel's head and wings are shown at top center, beneath the raised drape. Below the angel's head are three small blooms consisting of red- or gold-colored centers surrounded by four round blue-colored petals alternating with four pointed red or gold-colored petals (or other plant parts); a similar fourth bloom appears above the angel's head.
Beneath the three small blooms is a large, compass-drawn heart enclosing text. The heart is defined by a thick blue-colored line bordered on each side by red-colored half-circles. Below the heart, two large flowering stems or vines extend to either side. In each lower corner there is a small bloom similar to the four shown above the heart. The whole composition is marked off by straight lines forming a simulated "frame" that is filled in with a gold color, with red color in its "corner blocks".
Label:More than half Henry Heltzel's works were created for families attending Zion Lutheran and Reformed Church in Stoney Creek, Shenandoah County, Virginia, hence his early nickname of "the Stoney Creek Artist."

The "heavenly curtain" framing the upper portion of this fraktur, and the two large flowers on either side at the bottom, are but two of the distinctive motifs used by the artist. Most of his work also includes the five-petaled rose seen in the lower corners (although they appear as four-petaled in some works). These flowers and the artist's tulips are frequently colored by hatched lines. The winged angel at the top between the tassels invariably appears in this position on pieces with the curtain motif. A striking and often overlooked feature of the artist's work is the use of subdued pastel colors for the background, curtains, and some of the flowers. Violets and pinks are common colors in his development of such areas.

Some of Heltzel's works are inscribed in German, some in English. As illustrated here, he also was adept at both common cursive and elaborate Gothic styles of lettering. In formats of this type, regardless of language, he consistently placed the child's name in large letters at the head of the text.
Provenance:The fraktur was acquired from the estate of Mrs. Gordon Tidler (nee, Anna Painter, 1918-1992). N. B. "Painter" and "Bender" are frequently interchanged for the same family surname.
A line of descent provided by Marianne Garber (see "Vendor") is George Painter (d. 1760); to his grandson, John M. Painter (?-?); to his daughter, Mrs. George Miller (Sarah Ann Painter, 1839-1916); to her son, Walter Painter (1874-1938); to his daughter, Anna Painter, from whose estate the piece was acquired.
Mark(s):No watermark found.
Inscription(s):The upper part of the inscription within the heart is in Gothic-style lettering, the lower part in script. The transcription reads: "Wilhelm Bender, ist/ geboren in Virginien schenandoah Caunty den 20ten [? December]/ 1805. Seine eltern sind Adam Bender und seine ehefrau Elisabeth/ Seine Taufzeugen sind Johannes Baumann und seine ehefrau Maria/ Er ward getauft von Herrn Jacobus Hoffmann, Diener des worts[.]/ Ich bin getauft auf deinem namen Gott Vater, Sohn und/ Heiliger geist, Ich bin gezält zu deinem saamen,/ zum volck dass du geheiligt heist,/ Ich bin in Christi eingesenckt/ Ich bin mit seinem/ geist beschenckt".

A translation reads: "Wilhelm Bender was born in Virginia, Shenandoah County, on December 20, 1805. His parents are Adam Bender and his wife, Elisabeth. His sponsors [or godparents] are Johannes Baumann and his wife, Maria. He was baptized by Jacobus Hoffman, minister. I am baptized in your name, God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I am counted as one of your seeds, to a people that you blessed. I am immersed in Christ. I have been given his spirit."

See "Curatorial Remarks" for the source of the transcription and translation.

A 3-line inscription in dark brown ink in upright script in German appears on the back of the primary support; it begins with "1826" but the remainder has not yet been transcribed or translated.