Susan Beverly Whiting
ARTIST: The initials “H.E.H.V.B.” suggest that it is at least partially the work of Hester Eliza Henrietta (Van Bibber) Tabb (1800-1823), a student of Felix Sharples (c.1786-c.1826), who had advertised his services as a drawing master in the Norfolk newspapers. Its style suggests it may have been a collaboration between master and student.
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.
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 family at North End, but after Hester’s death Henry Wythe Tabb remarried and moved to nearby Auburn Plantation.
SITTER: Susan Beverly Whiting (d. 1816) was a daughter of Francis (d. 1826) and Mary Hartwell (Fox) Whiting of Eaton Hill Plantation in Gloucester County. Susan was mentioned in the 1812 will of her grandmother, Ann (Macon) Fox, but she died unmarried at a young age and her obituary appeared in the Richmond Enquirer on May 18, 1816.
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 that descended in the Booth and Tabb families of Mary Mason (Wythe) Booth Tabb (1751-1814).