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American Paintings and Sculpture
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: John Ramage, British, born Ireland, ca. 1748–1802, active United States, 1775–94
Subject: Anthony Rutgers, 1770–1799

Anthony Rutgers (1770-1799)

probably 1790

Watercolor on ivory

1 7/8 × 1 1/2 in. (4.8 × 3.8 cm)
Lelia A. and John Hill Morgan, B.A. 1893, LL.B. 1896, M.A. (Hon.) 1929, Collection
1940.515

This miniature exemplifies the masterful technique of the Irish-born miniaturist John Ramage. Anthony Rutgers sat for Ramage at the height of the artist’s New York career. Although Ramage never signed his portraits, they can be identified by their distinct style. Rutgers appears elegant in a magnificently pleated double shirt ruffle, striped waistcoat, and frock coat with a high collar. He was descended from a Dutch family that had settled in New Amsterdam in the 1630s and risen to affluence from brewery profits wisely invested in Manhattan real estate. A well-traveled merchant who at one time lived in Curaçao, Dutch Antilles, Rutgers was a founding shareholder in the lucrative Tontine Coffee House.

The name “Cornelia M Rutgers,” engraved on the locket’s reverse, reveals that he gave his portrait to his new wife, the twenty-year-old daughter of editor, publisher, and printer Hugh Gaine, probably on the day she took his name. When they were married on April 17, 1790, Rutgers’s “Schooner—–, which lay in the East River, was decorated in honor of the occasion, with a very numerous variety of the colors of all nations, and exhibited a most beautiful appearance.” Increasingly by the turn of the century, a wedding on this scale would have been commemorated by the presentation of a miniature. At home in Curaçao, Cornelia likely cherished her husband’s portrait during his absences at sea overseeing his business affairs. Growing tensions between France and the United States in the late 1790s led French privateers to prey on American ships in the Caribbean, attacks that were met with armed resistance by American crews. Tragically, Anthony was mortally wounded aboard the schooner Flying Fish in an encounter with the French ship Henrietta when a gun burst in his hand on May 3, 1799. He died in Bermuda eight days later, leaving his pregnant wife. She returned to New York with their children, whose descendants treasured the miniature through subsequent generations.

Geography: 
Made in United States
Status: 
Not on view
Culture: 
American
Period: 
18th century
Classification: 
Miniatures - Jewelry
Provenance: 

descended in the family to sitter's daughter, Mrs. Thomas Wickham (Cornelia M. Rutgers), New York; to her daughter Mrs. Joseph C. Ringwalt; to her daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Morse, Washington, D.C., until 1921; sold through Ruel Tolman to John Hill Morgan, New York, 1921-1940; to the Yale University Art Gallery, 1940

According to John Hill Morgan ledger page in registrar's files, "purchased thro [sic] R. P. Tolman, curator of Graphic Arts of the Smithsonian Institution. I first saw it in a boarding house in Washington kept by his great grandaughter [sic]. I recognized it at once as a Ramage. Comparing it with the Pintards in the New-York Historical Society confirms my judgment."

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.