Andrew Van Bibber, Jr.
ARTIST: Hester Eliza Henrietta (Van Bibber) Tabb (1800-1823) was a student of Felix Sharples (c.1786-c.1826), who advertised his services as a drawing master in the Norfolk newspapers. Its style suggests it may have been a collaboration between master and student.
Hester was descended from one of the early Dutch families that settled at Bohemia Manor in Cecil County, Maryland. Her parents, Andrew (1768-1808) and Sarah Emory Van Bibber (1769-1836), lived at North End Plantation in Matthews County, Virginia. On July 2, 1821, Hester married Henry Wythe Tabb (1791-1864) of Toddsbury Plantation in neighboring Gloucester County. Hester died after childbirth at a young age in 1823. The young couple had lived with her familiy at North End, but after Hester’s death Henry Wythe Tabb remarried and moved to nearby Auburn Plantation.
Felix Thomas Sharples came from a family of pastel artists. He, his parents, a half-sister and a half-brother were all proficient in the medium; however, unlike the rest of his family, Felix tended to depict his subjects in a three-quarter or nearly full view. Together, the family traveled from England in 1793, seeking commissions for pastel portraits in New England, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, before returning to England in 1801. Five years later Felix and his half-brother James returned to America, working in Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina. They advertised that they worked oil and miniature portraits as well as pastel. The rest of the family came to America in 1809, but apparently remained in New York. Felix’s last known work was done in Mathews and Gloucester Counties, Virginia. Sometime after 1830, he died and was buried at Isleham, the Yeatman family plantation located across the North River from Toddsbury, in Matthews County.
Inscribed “Rolinda” and “Rolind” on the verso, this is probably an obscure reference to Rolinda Sharples (c.1793-1838), Felix’s half-sister.
SITTER: This may be the portrait of Andrew Van Bibber, Jr. (1802-1842), the artist’s younger brother, referenced in Katherine McCook Knox’s book, The Sharples (1930). Its owner at that time was a direct descendant of Hester’s husband, Henry Wythe Tabb, who also owned the portrait of Miss Susan Whiting that came to MESDA with this portrait (MESDA acc. 2024.148). A second portrait of Andrew Van Bibber as a young man descended in another branch of the Henry Wythe Tabb family (S-5042).
RELATED OBJECTS: This portrait is one of five Tabb family portraits acquired from the Bland Gallery in New York (MESDA acc. 2024.146-150). A large number of portraits and sketches by Sharples and Van Bibber descended in the Booth and Tabb families of Mary Mason (Wythe) Booth Tabb (1751-1814). These include a pastel portrait of the artist’s mother, Sarah Emory Van Bibber (S-5040), her brothers Henry (S-5053) and Andrew, a possible self portrait (S-5041), and a sketch of North End Plantation (S-5049).