Lucy Ann Jones Booth
ARTIST: Though this work has been attributed to Felix Sharples (1786-after 1830) in the past, its slightly different style and the initials “H.E.H” on the reverse suggest it was also the work of his student, Hester Eliza Henrietta (Van Bibber) Tabb (1800-1823). In 1811, Sharples had advertised his services as a drawing master in the Norfolk newspapers.
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. 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 family 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.
SITTER: An inscription on the back of the portrait identifies the sitter as “Miss Lucy Ann Bou__.” A later gallery label expands on this inscription to claim that the sitter is “Miss Lucy Ann Boudinot.” However, no such person can be found. Its descent in the Tabb family suggests that the young woman is Lucy Ann Jones Booth (1805-1821), a daughter of George Wythe Booth (1772-1808) and granddaugter of the Toddsbury family matriarch, Mary Mason (Wythe) Booth Tabb (1751-1814). Lucy Ann was descended from Mary Wythe’s first marriage to George Booth (d. 1777) of Belleville Plantation.
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. These include a second portrait of Lucy Ann Jones Booth that was signed by the artist Felix Sharples and descended in the family of her sister, Frances Amanda (Booth) Taliaferro.