Product images of Captain John Whitfield Rutter (1773-1825)
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Captain John Whitfield Rutter (1773-1825)
An oval miniature in watercolour on ivory in a gilt metal oval suspension frame, of which the glazed back holds a broad oval band of blue glass around a smaller gilt-edged lozenge holding a lock of dark brown hair against a pale blue glass or opal background. This is held in the form of a letter 'S' by a seed-pearl grip. A small seed-pearl anchor is enclosed in the upper curl of the lock and the letter 'R', also in seed pearls in the lower curl. A piece of detached thread in the back is there accidentally, not part of the design. The sitter is shown bust length, half-turned to his right but facing the viewer, against a partly hatched background of blue sky and grey/pink clouds. He wears a dark blue civilian coat with a black round collar, over a white waistcoat and white neckcloth. His shirt or the end of the neckcloth appears to have a lace front but no visible collar. His eyes are blue and his hair dark brown, cut short and with sideburns. Either the front glass of this item requires cleaning or there has been some paint deterioration in the lower part, since a recorded inscription, 'J.I.B' suggested to be the initials of the artist, is no longer clear. Rutter is buried at St Martin's, Canterbury, his gravestone recording that he was a 'Commander in His Majesty's Packet Service on the Dover Station' who died aged fifty-three, on 27 October 1825. At the time he was commander of HM steam packet 'Spitfire', (Jackson's Oxford Journal 12 November). In the years of peace after 1815, a good number of early steam packet commanders were former naval men, but if he had been in the Navy it was not as a commissioned officer or, apparently, a master. He must have been a good seaman, however, and according to the 'Navy List' was master of the Admiralty sailing packet 'Lady Francis', based at Harwich, from the beginning of 1810 to mid 1820. He then moved to the packet 'Countess of Chichester' based at Dover, in which he is last mentioned in the 'List' for December 1823. It was after this that he presumably transferred into steam service. The 'Lists' consistently spell his second name as 'Whitford' though his gravestone (Whitfield) is presumably correct. This also commemorates his widow, Mary, who died on 26 May 1854, aged seventy-nine, and implies that the painter of this miniature was probably their daughter. It was presented to the Museum by Miss Rose M. Rutter of Sompting, Sussex, in 1963.
Julia Bentham (nee Rutter)
- Image reference: F9538-002
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London