Sophie Booth (1798 - 1875) was the wife of a Margate bargeman when the artist, J.M.W. Turner (1775 - 1851), first met her in 1833 when he rented rooms from her on Margate's seafront. He had previously spent part of his childhood in the seaside resort.
Sophie was widowed soon after their first encounter and, for the next eighteen years until he died, she secretly became Turner's most devoted companion. It has always been assumed that the two were lovers. Certainly Turner had a chequered love-life on the q.v.! It was only after his death that his executors were astonished to discover that he'd already had two daughters by a woman ten years his senior when he left instructions for an allowance to be paid them!
There is no known portrait of Sophie having been completed by Turner, unless she is the subject of one of the artist's more lurid and erotic paintings and drawings discovered after his death, and which so horrified
his friend John Ruskin that he attempted to suppress them and gave everyone the impression they had been burnt!
Fortunately they have survived as part of the Turner Bequest and, hopefully, will be exhibited in future.
This sculpture is entitled, "Mrs Booth, The Shell Lady of Margate".
The new Turner Contemporary in Margate is built on the site of Sophie Booth's boarding house.