Abigail Williams, the daughter of Stephen Theoda (Perrin) William of Roxbury, Massachusetts, married in 1789, Dr. John Bartlett, a physician also of Roxbury. He was one of the founders of the Roxbury Charitable Society and of the Humane Society of Massachusetts, as well as being a trustee of the Roxbury Latin School and President of the Bank of Norfolk.
This excellent example of Gilbert Stuart's female portraiture after his return to his native America, was painted with a companion portrait of her husband at Boston, c. 1814. It is painted, as is typical with many of the portraits from this period, on a wooden panel support over a gesso ground that has been combed to imitate the surface of a woven canvas. She is depicted at half-length in a gilt framed armchair, which must have been a studio prop since it re-appears in a number of Stuart's works, with a European-style sophistication and demeanor that Stuart had absorbed through his years of work in London and Dublin.
Stuart visited Boston in 1805, remaining there for the rest of his life, both delighting and exasperating his clients. Many artists sought his advice; these included John Trumbull, William Dunlap, Thomas Sully, Washington Allston, John Vanderlyn and Samuel F. B. Morse; after his death they drew up a resolution naming him the father of American portraiture. Stuart told Matthew Harris Jouett, 'Never be sparing of colour, load your pictures, but keep your colours as separate as you can. No blending, tis destruction to clear & bea[u]tiful effect. Stuart advised, 'Short and chopping strokes are preferable to swashing handling'.