John Moore Mutter
SITTER: John Moore Mütter (1782-1819) was born in Oxford County, North Carolina. His father, Thomas Mütter (d.1799), was born in Scotland and immigrated to Colonies before the Revolution. He established a successful mercantile empire with outposts in Norfolk, Petersburg, and Oxford, North Carolina, where he owned a plantation of more than 2000 acres. Thomas sent his son John to Scotland to be educated. On his return to America, John established a successful merchant business in Richmond, Virginia. In 1807, he married 15-year-old Lucinda Armistead (Gillies) (1792-1814), a descendant of both the Lee and Carter families. Lucinda died in 1814. Several years later, suffering from financial setbacks and illness, John sailed for Europe. He died in Naples in 1819.
ARTIST: The artist Cephas Thompson was born in Massachusetts in 1775. He spent the majority of his artistic career in the South. His “Memorandum of Portraits” in the Boston Athenaeum records 541 canvases, 333 of which were done in Virginia: 80 in Alexandria between 1807-1809; 149 in Richmond between 1809-1811; and 104 in Norfolk between 1811-1812. “Mr Mütter” and “Mrs Mütter” are recorded in the Memorandum between “Spotzwood Henry” and “Miss Abby Harison.”
The primary reference work on Cephas Thompson is Deborah L. Sisum’s article “‘A Most Favorable and Striking Resemblance’”: The Virginia Portraits of Cephas Thompson” published in the Summer 1997 Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts. (https://archive.org/details/journalofearlyso2311997muse) The article accompanied an exhibition of Thompson’s Virginia portraits at the Lyceum in Alexandria, Virginia. The Journal also published a transcription of the complete Memorandum and a biographical dictionary of Thompson’s Virginia sitters.
FRAME: The oak leaf carved frame with gilt liners is early, if not original, to the portrait.