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Major Thomas Tabb

Sharples, Felix
Place Made:
Gloucester County Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
pastel –paper
HOA: 9; WOA: 7
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Pastel on grey paper, of man in three-quarters pose, brown hair and eyes. He wears a white stock, his body is unfinished, and the work is marked on back with an ink inscription, “Major Thomas Tabb.”

ARTIST: Felix Thomas Sharples (1786-after 1830) 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 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 returned 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 verso says that this portrait depicts “Major Thomas Tabb.” Thomas Todd Tabb (1782-1835) was the oldest son of Mary Mason (Wythe) Booth Tabb (1751-1814) and her second husband, Philip Tabb (1750-1822) of Toddsbury 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 portraits and sketches by Sharples and Van Bibber descended in the Booth and Tabb families of Mary Mason (Wythe) Booth Tabb.

Descended in the family of the sitter’s brother, Henry Wythe Tabb of Auburn Plantation in Matthews County, Virginia. Acquired by Frank L. Horton from the Bland Gallery in New York City. An old label from the gallery notes that this portrait—along with four others—was acquired from the “Tabb Mansion-Virginia.”
Credit Line:
Gift of Frank L. Horton