Ramage, John (1746–1802), miniaturist and goldsmith, was born in Dublin (nothing is known of his parents), and entered the Dublin Society's schools in 1763. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Liddell, a London merchant, prior to his emigration to Canada; they had two children, John and Elizabeth Ramage. He was a resident of Halifax, Nova Scotia (1772–4), and then lived in Boston prior to the American revolution. According to church records from Trinity church, Boston, Massachusetts, on 8 March 1776 John Ramage was married for the second time, possibly bigamously, to Maria Victoria Ball.
Ramage was a protestant, and was on the loyalist side in the war. While in Boston, owing to his tory affiliations Ramage received most of his commissions from officers of the British army and tory families, which may explain why his paintings (as portable miniatures) are not found in Boston. He received a commission as a lieutenant in the Loyal Irish Volunteers, a loyalist regiment formed in 1775 for the defence of Boston under Capt. James Forrest. In the spring of 1776 he accompanied Gen. Howe's army as it withdrew from Boston, at which time he returned to Halifax, Canada. His third marriage (c.1776) was to a Mrs Taylor, in St Paul's church, Halifax. This was almost certainly a bigamous marriage (although it is possible that Mrs Taylor was in fact his first wife Elizabeth), and Maria Victoria Ramage divorced him in or around 1779. It was to escape prosecution for bigamy and debt that in 1777 Ramage and his wife left Halifax and settled in New York. There Ramage was appointed a second lieutenant in the City Militia, was a freemason and a member of the New York Marine Society. On 29 January 1787, in the First and Second Presbyterian Church, New York, he married Catherine Collins; they were to have two sons and a daughter.
During his first ten years in New York, he lived in extremely affluent circumstances, and counted among his well known patrons Pintards, Gerrys, Ludlows, Van Rensselaers, Van Cortlands, McCombs, Rutgerses, and George Washington. Ramage's Washington portrait was commissioned by Martha Washington and is documented by George Washington's diary dated 3 October 1789, which mentions a sitting for Ramage. This particular painting shows Washington's head facing three-quarters left, with the order of the Cincinnati hanging from the left lapel of his coat. There are at least two other miniatures painted by Ramage of Washington: both depict him in full face, in uniform but without the order of the Cincinnati. The third portrait is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, a bequest of the late Charles Mun. Ramage was a skilled goldsmith; the elegant cases he made for his miniatures complement the rich colours and delicacy of the portraits.
He left his family behind in 1794, when he fled to Montreal to avoid being imprisoned for debt; however, he was almost drowned en route, suffered from fever, and on arrival was thrown in jail by the British authorities as a suspected American sympathiser. He was imprisoned for a month, and on release attempted without much success to rebuild his career as a miniaturist. He died 24 October 1802, and was buried in the protestant cemetery in Montreal.