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Birth and Baptismal Certificate for Johannes Bender (b. 1798)

Probably 1811-1820
Origin: America, Virginia, Shenandoah County
Primary Support; irreg.: 8 x 9 3/4in. (20.3 x 24.8cm); object is not framed
Watercolor and ink on laid paper
Museum Purchase, The Antique Collectors' Guild and individual Guild members in memory of Henry P. Deyerle and Mary Elizabeth Deyerle
Acc. No. 1993.305.1
Heavy drapery (once colored red or pink, 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 centers surrounded by four round blue petals alternating with four pointed red petals (or other plant parts); a similar fourth bloom is above the angel's head. Beneath the three small blooms, a large, compass-drawn heart encloses text. The heart is defined by a thick blue-colored line bordered on each side by red hatched 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 in its "corner blocks".

As of this cataloguing, the piece remains unframed.

The piece had no frame when acquired.
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):A watermark in the primary support (beginning with the letter "M") has not yet been transcribed or identified pending conservation treatment that will enable the support to withstand handling.
Inscription(s):The upper part of the inscription within the heart is in Gothic-style lettering, the lower part in script. The transcription reads: "Johannes Bender, Ist/geboren in Virginien schenandoa Caunty den 22ten Merz 1798/seine Eltern sind Philip Bender und seine ehefrau Regina Magdalena/Seine Taufzeugen sind Jacob Imschwiller und seine ehefrau Catharina./Er war getauft von Herrn Jacobus Hoffmann; Diener des worts/Ich bin getauft ob uh gleich ich sterbe, Was schadet mir das kühle/grab, Ich weis mein Vatterland und erbe, Dass ich/beÿ Gott im himm[el] hab, Nach meinem/ Tod ist bereit, Das him/mels freud und/Feÿerkleid."

The translation reads: "Johannes Bender was born in Virginia, Shenandoah County, on March 22, 1798. His parents are Philip Bender and his wife, Regina Magdalena. The baptismal sponsors [or godparents] are Jacob Imschwiller and his wife, Catharina. He was baptized by Jacobus Hoffman, minister of the Word. I am baptized if I should die; What harm will the cool grave be to me? I know my fatherland and inheritance, which I have with God in heaven. After my death are prepared the joy of heaven and the celebration garment."

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