Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009 8:53 am by Cristina in ,    65 comments
BBC News follows the tale of an art collector who claims to have uncovered a new portrait of the Brontë sisters:
James Gorin von Grozny, from Devon, paid £150 for the work which he believes was painted by Sir Edwin Landseer in 1838.
But art experts say Landseer would have had no call to paint the sisters who were not famous at that date.
The only known portrait of the sisters was painted by their brother, Branwell.
In the painting, the figure believed to be Emily Bronte holds a pen and notebook, whilst Charlotte stands and Anne looks away to one side.
Mr Gorin von Gronzy had originally bought a different picture of three sisters from an auction house, but when he went to collect it, it had disappeared.
He said the auction house offered him a refund, or the picture he now believes is of the Bronte sisters.
Professor Francis O' Gorman, of the University of Leeds, an expert in Victorian Literature, said he was doubtful that the painting depicted the Bronte sisters.
"The Brontes were unheard of outside their family circle in 1838.
"There was nothing in the public domain which might have attracted one of the most famous painters of the early Victorian period to stop by and paint them", he said.
However, Mr Gorin von Grozny said that Landseer could have travelled through the Brontes' home town of Haworth whilst visiting his friend John Nussey at Bolton Hall in Yorkshire.
Nussey was the also brother of Charlotte Bronte's friend Ellen.
Mr Gorin von Gronzy said a small 'EL' monogram and the date 1838 visible in the crook of 'Charlotte's' arm, led to his belief that Landseer was the artist.
It is thought that the key to the painting's authenticity could lay in a sketch of a knee on the back of the portrait.
The sketch apparently shows a leg with a three inch scar just below the knee.
Mr Gorin von Grozny argued that a painting by Charlotte Bronte depicting a shepherdess, apparently with a similar scar on her leg, could have been a self-portrait.
The painting of the shepherdess by Bronte, based on Solitude at Dawn by Johann Henry Fuseli, appeared in a book called The Art of the Brontes.
And that would all be really exciting if there weren't big, huge 'but's to everything. And there's practically no need to write the arguments as a quick look at the picture clearly tells that these are not the Brontë sisters. Being three and holding a pen - when they were nearly 10 years away from becoming published authors - is not enough: the dresses, the faces, etc. seem to be all wrong, not to mention that the Edward Landseer - John Nussey - Ellen Nussey - Charlotte Brontë theory is a bit tenuous to put it mildly.

The drawing by Charlotte Brontë (and the scar) can be seen here as, as a matter of fact, it is the cover of the book. You can compare it to Fuseli's painting seen here. Mr Gorin von Grozny himself describes his find on amazon:
Cropped from an already miniscule 'vignette' inspired by 'Fuseli's 'Resting Shepherd', it is described 'Figure in blue bent over double' with 'shepherd's crook'.
Yet centre of composition below right knee reveals intricate bumps and dents, while closer exam yealds two fine rows of whitish 'pucker-marks' or 'stitch-holes' suggesting residue of traumatic wound approx 3" X 1/2".
While no record exists of traumatic leg injury or need for walking-stick, it may not have been something a 'lady' disclosed, yet evidently from the composition secretly wanted to posterise. Another naked leg featuring a similar scar below right knee has been found on verso of a 'fresh' group portrait, also extraordinary in it's 1830's nakedness the topical wound is in the same location and of similar dimensions as that buried in Charlotte's inspired self-portrait- 'girl with a bad leg'. Trufin Hatch (narrative) and Phil Butcher (graphics) are helping me prepare published description soon available through Amazon.
We would have loved for it to have been a new discovery but we can't really believe it, sorry.

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65 comments:

  1. Unlikely as it is, and full of controversy, can't imagine anyone not thinking it looks like them, ages and face-shapes are the same. Very 'state of the art' pen, for serious writers, there is one like it at Haworth, and what about the jewellery? Maybe Charlotte wanted to improve on Branwell's 'deplored' painting, and somehow entrapped the lusty Landseer. How daring of her show a naked leg, her 'Lycidas' is also pretty racy, but does it really show a scar?

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  2. Dear Christina, Not even with a quick glance can you miss the match of these finely rendered faces, and there are no huge 'buts' I'm aware of, only doubts, in fact your argument consists mainly of perfectly reasonable disbelief. You mention the dresses, what is wrong with them? The colours correspond with the girls known preferences, Emily liked greens, rusts and browns, Ann was inclined to cream and blue while Charlotte had a propensity to lilacs and purples. There is a later, very similar dress on display at Haworth made for her wedding trip. I would love to know why you think the dresses 'wrong', especially since this seems to be your only area of doubt and you are a responsible voice. (Am signing 'anon' because can't work the buttons.)
    Look forward to your thoughts with best wishes, James Gorin von Grozny

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    1. Has anyone seen the portrait of Charlotte wearing the exact same outfit that the supposed Emily is wearing in this group one ? The same dress and red scarf. Quite interesting !

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  3. I should mention the Nussey connection is not in the least bit tenuous as you worry, John and Edwin met throughout the 1830's at the 'Bachelor Duke's' pad Bolton Hall.
    Besides, it's academic who the maker is and only relevant once you have established who the aspiring 18,20 & 22y/o subjects are, and if not the rightful owners of the clothes, accessories, furniture and literary ambition faithfully recorded in the portrait and likewise surviving at the parsonage, then who are they? If there were three more sisters of same ages at same time who looked the same and owned the same hand-made jewellery, would such outspoken feminine ambition simply dissapear? Observing her 'fresh' image, Charlotte's motto comes to mind; 'I am a rising character'.
    Best wishes, James

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  4. Dear James,

    Many thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment - we appreciate it.

    I personally don't see that many similarities with what, I suppose, I imagine the Brontës to look like. But never having met them (!) I can't say for sure, so I do accept that you do see similarities. I do disagree about the dresses. The girls in this painting look to me to be very fashionably dressed which, with the possible exception of Charlotte towards the end of her life, wasn't precisely like the Brontës. This 'Emily' may be dressed in green but doesn't look to me like the girl who wore leg-of-mutton sleeves, lanky shirts and stated that she wished to be as God made her, for instance. And I sincerely don't think you could get Emily to get all dresses-up just because Landseer is coming to paint them.

    I don't doubt at all the John Nussey - Landseer connection, it's the trio Brontë - Nussey - Landseer that seems too much for me, but again, I probably have as much against it as you have for it, so if you think it possible then I can't really disagree.

    As for the sitters - I honestly think they could be any three sisters of those ages, of a certain class, of a certain background, etc. And given that the sisters were not famous yet - why wouldn't Branwell, the pride of the family, have been included too?

    I'm basing a lot of my 'arguments' on 'intuition' and 'not knowing' as you see - do you have any actual fact that makes them the Brontë sisters, apart from possibilities and conjectures? That would be an important point to establish. Charlotte famously said that she didn't have any portraits of her sisters - it's one thing to keep secret a couple of amateurish pictures made by your brother and quite another to hide - for good up until now - a portrait made by Landseer himself. And what's the history of the painting, where does it come from?

    I think it is important to establish for once and for all who the artist definitely is, as that would definitely make the Nussey - or other - connection possible of not.

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  5. Dear Christina, part of my reply is missing due to text limit-I will try and retrieve it:
    Your intuitive doubt considering Charlotte's statement about no-other portraits is apt and concerns me also. I also feel the lack of reference to Landseer- apart from the remaining inspired drawings and Branwell's poem, and Charlotte's pilgrimage to see his 'Dialogue at Waterloo', is conspiquous in it's absence- as would be a person or incident one had no wish to be reminded of. Yet Landseer, by nature of subject and fame, was probably among the sister's favourites.
    If there were issues of affection or intimacy between Charlotte and the maker- and the affair was unrelinquished- (the picture spent several years folded outside-in hiding the nude verso) the finished work was probably never delivered.
    I fancy, years later the maker was in topical conversation with daughters of friend's or patron's and remembered the meeting, had the picture framed (c.1870) and gave it to that interested person, perhaps one of the first Bronte fans- (could have been one of the Russell girls but that merely speculation). That it was beautiful and should have gone to Charlotte, and the implication that someone suffered 'lover's remourse', could be reason enough for the affair be never mentioned again. I'm sure she would have grieved for it though.
    Lyndall Gordon points out that much material conflicting with the convenient image of Charlotte was destroyed, and it's no surprise that so far, the only reference to Charlotte having a scar or bad leg is in her 'Lycidas', on verso of fresh portrait, and written fragment from 'A passionate Life'; 'she carried herself a little awkwardly like one with early hip trouble.'.
    The picture 'appeared' 2 months after a sale of 300 19th.c paintings and w/colours from 3 Devon farmhouses. I went to collect what I thought was an informal morning sketch of the three Russell sisters, (one of whom later famed 'afternoon tea') the youngest Maria, was scandalously reputed illigitimate daughter of maker Edwin Landseer.
    I was delirious with shock when this picture was presented me, offered a refund I decided to keep it anyway, my only link with the missing picture by my favourite maker, and I think Charlotte caught my eye/heart.
    The first notion of who this was didn't come until I brought it home and explained the mix-up to my wife, who had been been taking a nap- she looked up and said; 'it's the Brontes- isn't it?'. I then saw the pen (which my wife hadn't yet). After reference to Branwell's version and NPG's ominous statement 'this is the only surviving group portrait' I believed she was right (had no idea of maker yet- that took weeks to surface, monogram not found until 4 months into the study) every possible area of study since has yealded corroborating evidence, finally the obscurity of injury and scar below rt. knee.
    All the intricately detailed accessories and inclusions, some hand-made and utterly unique, are identified with the girls artefacts except Charlotte's heavy gold bracelet- 8 of 9 is not bad, thanks again to the faithful artist.
    I will endeavour establish firmer identity of maker. There are some memoirs of Landseer that may possibly include reference to the lusty liasion, though again anything which threatens to discolour our memories of this giant, like the treasured trio, has been squirreled away or destroyed.
    I hope soon you will have the confidence to trust this revealing rendition and enjoy all it's statements old and new, and am delighted attempt answer all and any observations or questions arising, no matter how obscure or difficult. The close-up of jewellery and matched at Museum may help your appraisal, happy to forward hi-res images if you can receive.
    Very best wishes and thank you for stone-turning questions. James.

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  6. Pt. 1 concerning Branwell and the dresses:

    Branwell is not included for 4 possible reasons; the idea and concept of this portrait may have been born of Charlotte's resentment towards his 'deplored' painting, in which he dressed them in uniform and gave them a book- to read. This picture goes much further, beyond their outspoken aspirations Charlotte implies a 'right to write', a right Branwell already had. By 1838 he had long outgrown writing the Angria chronicles, and apart from the occasional poem including; 'Concerning Landseer', was encouraged to persue his painting career, the remaining reason Branwell is 'out of the picture' is found in him renting a city studio (in Halifax?) early that year.
    Ann returned unwell from Roe head in December '37 and was at home recuperating until September 1838. If you look again at Ann in the fresh portrait, you can find in her legendary 'porcelain skin' a subtle glint of persperation and powdered pallour, and although the youngest, she has dark rings under her eyes- the maker's record of detail is breathtaking.
    I agree it very probable Emily would be reluctant to sit or dress up even for her favourite painter, art expert Nigel Kirk noted the 'unflattering
    treatment of left sitter'- the maker has with single-haired precision included the 'protruding front tooth' so eloquently described by a Haworth church contemporary, he also says; 'she had droopy eyelids and a compressed mouth'. Also she was lanky, he said. Ann as ever is lost in dreams and Charlotte is ablaze with passion, adoration (for maker) and triumph- reminiscent of her motto; 'I am a rising character.'
    The dresses are yes 'state of the art' fashion- (my modest edu included LCF/UAL) as a dressmaker the leap from latest fashion to lace-trimmed gown is 2-3 days by hand, for a well known/adapted pattern. The sisters were competent seamstresses able to make the latest magazine styles, their loyalty to colours in this picture is charming. Emily preferred browns, greens and rustic tones, Ann liked blues and creams, while Charlotte had a propensity for lilacs and purples. There is a later, similar version at the museum made for her wedding-trip, and a remnant of open-ended sleeve belonging to Emily.
    If there did happen to be three (wealthy) sisters of same ages and features at same time as the Brontes who also believed in a 'right to write' and could afford to procure a portrait of such calibre, why could they not also afford a similar sum to publish their proclaimed writings? Such maverick ambition could not dissolve nor dissappear, only distill into the heady fragrance of Ellis, Acton & Currer Bell.
    Best wishes, James

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  7. James:

    Do feel free to send us a high-resolution image as well as any other images. Our email address is at the top of the sidebar.

    I appreciate you have gone to great lengths with your research, which does really help your 'cause'. But unless everything stops being just 'circumstantial' I don't think there's much of a case. Many theories about the Brontës are made up by circumstantial evidence only.

    I must honestly say I remain unconvinced, particularly about things such as the fashionable dresses or the fact that being three - possibly - sisters one of which is holding a pen excludes the possibility of them being any other three unknown sisters.

    And I completely disagree about the Charlotte-in-love-with-Landseer bit.

    Still, as I say, I appreciate your research and surrounding facts, and I thank you for sharing them with us.

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  8. Thanks Christina, I love the points you make- especially Charlotte-in-love-with-Landseer- sounds like a naughty school-yard rhyme-!
    I know it's mischievous to imagine Chalotte hanky-panky-ing with a rakish rising star with favour of a young Queen, but we can't, like mother's wring our hands and say none of it ever happenned.
    There are many reasons she might want to meet an eligible (though socially more
    afluent) young London bon of reputed humour, with affection for female company, and creative fame (whom she had long imitated and acknowledged in her work)?
    The most probable, if the liasion was her doing and not a chance meeting on some innocent errand or broken axle, or deviously devised by the bawdy batchelors at Bolton Hall- is that Charlotte set the stage and trap somehow, enticed him into her parlour and seduced him, perhaps literally- or vice-versa, into offering his able homage and brush, and supercede the 'poster' by Branwell.
    The nude verso irretrievably whispers mischief, and magically reveals by the maker's adoring hand, the issue of licentuous collusion as would a maiden's bulge.
    However, such base, un-Victorian voyeristic gloating and shameless naked exposure is partly excusable holding licence in the gaping scar featured in centre of study, it too indelible as a birth-mark.
    This rare, misfortunate distinction partly explains the hitherto unseen appearance of private nudity, and explains the extraordinary nakedness (and French underwear) in Charlotte's 'Lycidas'. Exceptional in that, unlike the great anatomist Fuseli, who chose classical subjects and draped then in clingy, scanty fabrics to expose the bones and sinews he studied, Charlotte's oevre was feminist romantic with little interest in anatomy. She makes no attempt to embue 'Lycidas' with tendons or ripples, but takes great care to include, beyond the subtle indent of latest 'elastic' haberdash, the intricate bumps and dents of trauma below the right knee, and specifically two fine rows of whitish 'pucker-marks', residue of the latest suture-repair technique (developed in Crimea?) Although it doesn't say which one, a third reference to leg-problem is high-lighted in the first few pages of 'A Passionate Life'.
    We're told, among her siblings and friends at school Charlotte was engineering and manipulative, and liked to be the centre of attention. Is it a surprise such a person might possess organic passion and calculated ambition, and employ strategies and devices to entrap her fancy and achieve her goals? (what ever it was she was playing at with Mnsnr Hager and his 'crumbs of affection' proves her brooding passion blinded her from the realms of reason.) It is not 'reasonable' to fall for an employer's spouse, and it asks one probe the precedence of such a person for how she or he might ever think it acceptable.
    Apart from our prudish paternal protectionism, there is no reason to hope, aged 22 she could not have a swooning flutter with a famous artist, or the organ-grinder, before she fell for Hager, only 2 or 3 years later. Interestingly, Edwin Landseer also tragically fell for his employer's spouse, Georgiana Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford's wife.
    (More follows) James

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  9. Cont. re; portrait circumstances.
    If Charlotte initiated the liasion, through Ellen and her brother John, a possible motive or reason is very likely connected to the 'deplored' group portrait, though that 'agenda' would have been clandestine I'm sure. She had no money, he needed none, and besides was on holiday. Landseer 'resented the demands' of portraiture, it would require very subtle trick or persuasion to inspire him. Was she that cunning and resourceful? Her picture says yes. Above all the underlying emotions and sentiments expressed in her captivating glow, her sense of triumph tells all: 'This is the statement as I wanted it, and I am a rising character.' You suggest only one of the sisters is writing. While some might say that is an irrefutable fact, only one can hold the pen, and the maker has engaged all three in the process; the dictator, the whistfull, visionary dreamer and independant fidgit. Also, possibly they gave Emily the pen to keep her sitting!
    I don't accept that three sisters of 1830's who devised their portrait declaring themselves to be aspiring writers would simply vanish from society or records. No-one has ever dared assume the right to write and indelibly declared it in visual testimony. It is a unique statement from the unique siblings in a unique time- there is no chance or record of any other female literary trio ever, and having majestically declared themselves writers these sisters had no intention of being any other three unknown sisters, too loud and daring a notion to go un-noticed (by family, community, eventually society). If these girls are some other three who looked the same, of same ages, had the same possessions and clear aspirations, who had the means and determination to persuade a top artist to picture them as writers, they had the resources to get published and we would know them and we would have two triads of burning ambition, literary triumph and genious.
    Few would accept verbal evidence of Charlotte having 'intimate feelings' for a 'society' artist (and perhaps it partly the maker's his imagination), but if you respond to Charlotte's eyes you can see her adoration, and submission, and that triumph. And how clever and chivalrous the maker has made her beautiful, and sheilded our gaze from her 'comical' stature, yet he is truthful, if you tip her head up you can see her offset lips, profound and unique to her. A close up is among the images I will send.
    Best wishes, James

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  10. James:

    As I said before, I do appreciate your research and the things you bring up, but that's all of it circumstantial. I don't wring my hands at 'Charlotte hanky-panky-ing with a rakish rising star with favour of a young Queen' because she might have done it but because there is absolutely no evidence to support it. As soon as you bring up a fact that proves it then I won't wring my hands anymore.

    As for a 'maker' to paint a beautified version of Charlotte: there is no need of a love story behind closed doors to find it. George Richmond himself painted a beautified Charlotte as well and they were not even acquainted with each other. Besides, Richmond's Charlotte and this portrait's Charlotte bear no resemblance whatsoever, nor does this portrait's Anne bear any resemblance to Richmond's Charlotte, and Charlotte herself said that the Richmond portrait reminded her of Anne. Charlotte in this portrait appears to have a cleft chin too and she doesn't have one in all the other known portraits of her, which I'd say is more conclusive than a scar on a knee.

    So I'm sorry, but I remain unconvinced.

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  11. You are quite right about proof of hanky-panky, I only have Charlotte's glowing femininity- submissive yet while defiant- and the nude verso to suppose it, no proof, though I doubt you will find a more intimate exchange beween subject and maker in many portraits except those featuring artist's 'wives' and 'models', and then not that hot.

    Now now, George Richmond's Charlotte is not beautiful. She is gaunt, infeminine, inelegant and colourless, and quite, quite different to the chubby, contented lady photographed not long after. The pastel may have reminded Charlotte of Ann because of the dreamy stillness of her demure, in Richmond's eyes. Besides, he could never fall in love with a woman, let alone fancy or draw one.
    I sent some images and notes covering some of these points before I read your post above. Landseer above all others had the character, ability, and opportunity to perform the clandestine caption, this is supported by his neatly hidden monogram.
    Best wishes, James

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  12. I missed your point about the cleft chin. I agree it is a cleft or dimple, and there is suggestion of cleft or dimple or indent in most frontal depictions of Charlotte, including Branwell's if you look closely, while even Richmond manages the feintest shadow on the tip of her rather large chin. She looks away from the maker as if her stare makes him uncomfortable, and it solves for him the problem of asymetry.
    Best wishes, James

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  13. This must definitely be a case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder, then. Because since it was first made, I think a good many people have remarked on how Richmond's portrait is a beautified version of Charlotte. Also, it is a well-known trademark of Richmonds: he did beautify the sitter, smoothed surfaces, etc. And I don't agree at all with what you say about the portrait being 'infeminine, inelegant'. Neither do I see it particularly 'colourless' bearing in mind that she was still probably in mourning and that she never was one for bright colours.

    The portrait was done in 1850, after Charlotte had been through losing her three siblings and the consequent depression. Charlotte usually remarked on it when she got 'stout', giving to understand that she was usually on the thin side, which would have been even more marked after such a bout of depression as she had been through.

    What about Charlotte's at least one known photograph (I'll say one, given that the other one is doubted by some)? No cleft chin there, and it's not one thing you lose with age. Besides, I'm not so sure I can discern it in the other portraits as you suggest.

    You say: 'Landseer above all others had the character, ability, and opportunity to perform the clandestine caption, this is supported by his neatly hidden monogram.'

    But all that doesn't make it necessarily a portrait of the Brontë sisters or even warrants that Landseer even met the Brontës or Charlotte. Not at all. Nothing in trustworthy sources points to it at all. And while that remains so, and even though your research is extraordinary, I'll have to say that these girls aren't the Brontës in my view.

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  14. Dear Christina,
    I am rather hard on Richmond, but he was a mamby-pamby, terrified of God- and ladies.

    The attributed photo isn't the best angle to show a cleft or dimple, but guess what? A shadow of dimple or cleft is visible on the lower front elevation of her chin.

    Let's for a moment imagine Landseer is not the maker, and never met the Brontes. Unless or untill fresh evidence suggests is was or wasn't him it doesn't really matter compared to the crucial question of who the girls are, and your only reason for saying it isn't is because you can find no record of it. I don't dispute how trustworthy the sources are, but they are incomplete, methodically stripped of anything that may disrupt or contradict the formulated Bronte industry.
    Lack of knowledge or written record of an event cannot mean it never transpired. For example, there was scant record of injury to Chalotte's leg, but a telling fragment of reference survived and is independantly corroborated.
    There are dozens, or hundreds of events in the Brontes lives that aren't recorded, but must have happenned. You suggest the evidence so far presented could be replicated, or the possessions could belong to others and is not convincing, but have not yet been able to factually criticise or cast doubt or contradiction on the possibility. Unless someone can prove, not guess, there were three other girls of same ages, sizes, appearances, tastes, possessions and aspirations in 1840's England, or at least suggest the girls could not have been together at the parsonage during the period or that someone had some distinction that is missing, there is no case or cause to contest the accumilated evidence. I look forward to bringing more to your trusted attention.
    Best wishes, James

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  15. James:

    I sincerely think you are looking at the matter upside down. Since there is no clear evidence - only circumstantial at best - that these three young women are the Brontë sisters, I believe you are wrong in saying that it has to be proven that they are not the Brontë sisters, as technically speaking, unless there is evidence, they are not the Brontë sisters to all effects. My way of looking at it, and what seems most logical to me, is to try and prove that these are the Brontë sisters.

    I do believe there could be a lot of women at the time that could be depicted in this image. For instance, if Landseer was the author and he was friends with the Nusseys, couldn't this be, say, Ellen, Merry and Ann Nussey? Or, if you are bent on having a Brontë, couldn't this be Charlotte, Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor, the trio of friends? Who says they have to be sisters at all? Why not three women from the same class at school? Three teachers? Three cousins? Three friends? Three relatives? Any of them, among the thousands of middle-class women of the time who dressed similarly is a possibility? And surely among all of them there would have been one with a scar in the knee, which is a fact that's not proven about Charlotte either?

    If something new does turn up, I'll be glad to hear about it, but at the moment I remain sceptical. I do sincerely thank you for all you've sent us nad told to us, which has been interesting, but as I say, I need definite proof.

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  16. Dear Christina,

    I hope you are at least mildly intrigued by the accessories and matching descriptions/images, even while still unsure about their appearances and dress. Concerning the latter obstruction, you may find the following quote quite surprising- and tantalising of more (you said it would be great if it were true);
    'They wore light-coloured dresses- they were all dressed alike untill they were young women- nice print- plain, with long sleeves and high neck and tippets down to the waist.' ('Tippets' likely refers to frills or bunches of lace as per Charlotte, or could be adapted to mean the folds or pleats of construction.) Hopefully, with the benefit of that rather obscure re-assurance of their 'label'- collected in Haworth C. 1910 from an 87 y/o first-hand, female witness- the very 'home-made' clothes are a lot more comfy.
    Which means the more exciting elements of what's been discovered can be discussed:
    Ann Dinsdale, Curate at Haworth, (who is not, at last count, yet convinced but hasn't seen the latest corroborations) asked why I thought 'Lycidas' was Charlotte's self-portrait. The answer was long and interesting and amusing in my view, and included the suggestion that the tiny 'tulip' hand with in-bent little, sticky-out finger beautifully drawn in both pictures is one and the same. I found this little snippet just recently that describes hands that could belong to only one Bronte from Ellen, who, after a lifetime of friendship (from childhood when we look at such things) recalled; 'Her very taper fingers-'. When you look at the fresh portrait it's easy see see who she talks of.
    I may be going too fast 4 u, The last images may have already persuaded you evaluate more precautiously the weight of this preposterous trio of presumption, perhaps you presently ponder while I promise they no pretenders, impostors nor, those clothes and dreams are rightfully theirs, and for caring, yours.
    How about that bow-begotten black Bangle?
    I look forward to your thoughts and quieries.
    Best wishes, James

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  17. Dear Christina,
    Thank you very much for your last appraisal which I missed before posting the above, and hope I can absorb and satisfy some of the points you have just made, beginning with agreeing it is up to the picture to prove it's authenticity and the identity of sitters. (Now a good maker, good enough to always be true, would endevour to make that possible.)
    I fancy you may be persuaded at least the little figure in the centre 'could' be Charlotte, based on the limits of her appearance and features and the corresponding descriptions that survive. There is nothing to suggest these 'Three Sisters' (as entitled by auctioneer) are in any way connected to the Nusseys, or indeed Yorkshire, except the 'statement' of black pen and carved swirl of chair. As far as I am aware, nurturing or expressing the impudent aspirations to write was the exclusive territory of the Brontes. From that sound platform the subjects matched the lives and descriptions of the Brontes, who were in 1838 3 aspiring female writers with a carved swirl (how history survives) on the arm of their dining-room sofa. They were unique collectively, and nothing so far in the picture discovered contradicts that surprise, or suggests they might also be the Nusseys. Why then, revert to an even less likely proposition, that the other subjects might be Ellen and Mary, when the eventual writers Emily and Ann fit known descriptions to the letter.
    Mick Armitage, (www) a life-long fan of the sisters and dedicated student of their appearances particularly Ann, recognised, without relation to the other sisters or reference to accessories, an isolated image of Ann's head, which he found 'totally fascinating', and asked to see an image of all three. Although baffled, he advanced- from appearance only- and no account of given date, anatomy or inclusions-; 'it seems most likely you portrait is of the Bronte sisters.
    By the way, we only have George Richmond's account of what Charlotte said when she first saw his finished portrait- no-one else was present. He said variously that she cried, and/or because it looked like Ann. To undestand what Charlotte meant (if that's what she said), we have to re-look at all the remaining portraits of Ann and compare them to Richmond's. As far as I can see there is none physical between it and any other representation of her. She is firstly described 'gentle' by most, and Richmond's Charlotte is nearing ferocious. But she does look broodingly dreamy, perhaps that is what she meant- when she burst into tears- but I wouldn't know which version of Richmond's account to trust.
    The notion that any three women might have between them a scar below the knee is not feasable. I have a small scar above my right knee which required one stitch (performed at the cottage hospital 550 yards from where I write), and throughout my short-trouser days was slightly concious of it and kept an eye out for what other boys had, and girls, in the way of scars and mementoes on shins and knees. Even among boys it's surprisingly rare for any trauma to leave visable scars, let alone a 3" gash at a distinctive 'dashing' angle. There survives so far 3 individual indications that Charlotte did have a disfigurement or walking impairment, and several references to her inertness, even Ellen says she 'never walked'.
    Teachers may gather 'round a pen (though I can't see why), indeed we know the sisters were near to hatching a plan for school in 1838, but teachers, even aspiring ones, would not present themselves or their school in such bare, frugal and faintly gloomy surroundings. Where is the blackboard, or desk, or chalk or rubber or topics of learning or authority? No, the only inclusion and message of this portrait is the pen and note-book. Besides, does dreamy Ann look like a teacher? But your arguments bring us closer to the crux of question; is this, so finely, carefully rendered, never vague or indistinct in any escapable aspect, the three Titans we strive to know so well?
    Love to know your angle on the bow-dangled Bangle.
    Best wishes, James

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  18. (First part)

    James:

    First of all, something I have been consistently neglecting to mention since I realised it a few days ago: Charlotte's eyes were brown/hazel by all accounts and portraits (Pillar portrait, Richmond's), yet this supposed Charlotte's eyes are clearly blue. You can imagine that it supports my scepticism, but I don't know what you must make of it.

    As for my 'angle on the bow-dangled Bangle', it's true that I didn't speak much about them. Firstly because I hardly know anything about 19th-C jewellery and secondly because, similar or not, it's hardly conclusive and I have no way of knowing how common such an item was. It doesn't look like a unique kind of accessory to me. The same goes for Anne's band of plaited hair, which I do know to be an item extremely popular, hair jewellery being made out of most deceased people's hair. If you look at the Brontë Parsonage collection, you will see that there is not only one similar to the one shown on this portrait but several more. And if that's true of the Brontës, that is also true of most families at the time. And this, unlike the bangle, I know to be common and not at all conclusive.

    As for the scar, the more I think about it, the more doubtful I become. I know you think Charlotte's leg problems have been hushed up (sort of, anyway), but we know artists to sketch things on the back of other paintings that bear no connection to the other side, so, despite your Lycidas theory - which I still don't see completely clearly - I wonder two things: 1) Why does the scar have to be connected with the portrait and 2) why would Charlotte show Landseer - or any other male acquaintance - not just her leg up to the knee (and I know your theory for this one: I'm sorry but I still find it very hard to think of Charlotte in love with Landseer, when we don't know for a fact that they even met) but also her bad knee and not her good knee, in case the urge to show her knees was so absolute?

    And can you point me to the source of Ellen saying that Charlotte 'never walked'? Because all the accounts we have point to her walking, and walking a lot. On the moors all her life, to and from Keighley, up and down Main Street (surely not easy for someone with a bad leg), in Brussels, in Ireland during her honeymoon, etc.

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  19. (Second part)

    I'm puzzled by the following: you bring up the whole Landseer-Brontës connection through the Nusseys and then, when I suggest that for all we know these sisters might be the Nusseys, you state that 'There is nothing to suggest these 'Three Sisters' (as entitled by auctioneer) are in any way connected to the Nusseys'. Well, as far as I'm concerned they have the possibility of being acquainted firsthand with the artist - always taking for granted that it is Landseer after all - through their own brother and much more middle-class in their probable ambitions to have their picture, as many middle-class families at the time. We know nothing about the Nusseys jewellery, dresses, looks (except for Ellen's) that might serve to prove or deny this, after all, as happens with a good many other 'three sisters' in the kingdom. Example: say that in the future they knew of one very famous rock band with its typical look and they unearthed a picture of a rock band with a similar pose, look and style, that wouldn't mean it is the same band, now does it? This is how I see this portrait and the evidence you are bringing up.

    You seem much more acquainted with Richmond's life and work than I am, but I must value what firsthand information we have, and reliable or not Richmond did paint Charlotte 'from life', meaning that all other engravings, etc, use his as a source and whatever they do to embellish it is nothing but the artist's imagination running away with him. That's why I choose to see his portrait as relevant here for establishing Charlotte's looks - beautified as we know it to be. I also don't see why his account of Charlotte saying it looked like Anne should be discredited, as he had never met Anne and Anne wasn't a favourite of the reading public or anything of the kind that might have warranted a 'fib' like that.

    The supposed Anne in this picture doesn't look at all to me like any of the portraits Charlotte drew of her, and not particularly either to Branwell's. And despite the buck teeth, etc, this Emily doesn't like her fragment from the Gun Portrait. At least to me it doesn't, which together with other things I have mentioned in the past actually makes me doubt it even more.

    I personally don't place so much weight on the fact that there is a pen. And bear in mind that in 1838, the Brontës didn't practically intend to make their living out of their writing. See how later on - almost a decade later - Emily had to be brought to publish the poems and how angry she was when she found out that her identity had been revealed to Charlotte's publishers. You say that they might have given her the pen in this portrait to keep her 'busy' but I don't see why she should have cared to be depicted as the writer.

    I still say that these could be any three women, one of which is holding a pen which, to me, is really nothing so big and meaningful.

    So,despite your efforts, the more I think about it, I can't but stay where I was when we reported this from BBC News. I remain as sceptical as ever.

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  20. Hi Christina,

    Thanks for the specifics above.

    I am glad you raised the contradiction of Charlotte's eye-colour, yes hazel-ish in the 1850 pastel, and muddy grey in Bramnwell's but blue in the un-attributed 'hat' profile of the early '40's pastel, while oral and written descriptions of blue or grey contradict the brown of Mrs Gaskell's and following biographers. There are at least 2 reliable descriptions of her with blue or grey eyes as very clearly stated in the fresh portrait- with stormy violet rims.
    Also worth mentioning is expert inconsistancy about Ann's eyes, often assumed to be pale blue but in fact mildly green again as carefully depicted in the exactment. Her 'gentle', 'dreamy' oral descriptions are more consistant than her few, mainly profile portraits, and usually feature an oval face with small jaw, a 'substantial' nose, fine porcelain skin and pearly white teeth. Tall Emily's 'compressed' mouth and protruding front tooth and even slightly drooping eyelids are keenly observed and could not be describing another in a many thousand.
    I am attempting to astablish the commonality of the bangle, and look forward to expert views but can't imagine the 1838 UK market flooded with the un-exceptional 'tied-bow' on solid jet bangle.
    The hair jewellery may have been common, but the combination of light brown hair plaited to approx. 1" wide band with brownish/purple stone (amethyst) decoration is unlikely to be found replicated in a neighbours or school-friends draw. The maker's matching of colour reflecting the stone is impossibly exact. Less distinctly, Charlotte wears a slightly thicker, un-decorated version also corresponding with Museum artefacts belonging to her, but it is less definately discernable.
    Enthusiast, historian and veteran Society member Imelda Marsden is an orthapaedic nurse of long-standing. Investigating the frontispiece of her own edition of 'Art of the Brontes' she imediatly identified the two fine rows of whitish blobs and stated 'yes, those are definately consistant with being suture-holes. Only that and the statement that she walked like 'one with early hip-trouble' and the nude on verso make me believe it is Charlotte's leg. I believe Charlotte showed 'Lycidas' among many examples of her work to the visiting maker, and I imagine him, being a male took notice of her naked leg, and being an artist may have noticed the intricvate bumps and unsulations and asked what they were for, and perhaps Charlotte was persuaded, or offered to show, what according to the secret of 'Lycidas' she was pre-occupied about, and when she had the private opportunity to show the wound (to the anatomist par excellence) he asked to study it. This theory is also a perfectly feasable introduction to intimacy or romance and or passion, while the consistant evidence of a scar is in 'Lycidas'. Can you imagine a shepherd in blue shintzy underwear, and a shepherd's crook that only reached mid-way up thigh? If you take an analytical view of the handle and compare it to artefact SB377 un-attributed walking-stick, you can see the 'bulbous end' can be very simply stylised into the tiny (impractical) swirl on the end of Lycidas' crook.
    I will recover Ellen's suggestion that Charlotte never walked. Apart from 'like one with early hip trouble' there is no record yet found. It could be that the trauma and impairment is acute in 1835, and subsequently substantially healed. The skin looks smooth in the nude of 1838. Is it the shapely leg of another feamale with similar scar on same leg as Lycidas', that the artist happened to jot on his journey to Haworth and retain on his only decent piece of paper? I doubt it, he could not dare risk it being discovered by a vicar's daughter and perhaps society at large.
    Pt. 2 follows. Best wishes, James

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  21. Pt.2

    Eliminating the Nusseys from the picture is first unlikely because there are no trappings of affluence or plush surroundings associated with portraits of 'paternal posterity'. Also, the Nusseys about now were running into financial straits?
    Secondly there is no inscription, as expected on a family posterity commission.
    Third, I am sure their covertly stated aspirations as here suggested were unique, and no-one else among the group of friends and schoolmates had the same presumtion, ability or notion, and would neither dare nor need dedicate such a rarely available exactment of memento to the/ir proclamation of literary aspiration. The final reason is that the detail features match specific foibles in the appearances of each sister. While I don't know the ages, appearance or chronolgy of all the Nussey sisters, it won't be the same unique configuration of 1 tall, 1 tiny, 1 middle, the youngest and with golden curls. As far as I know, no female writer or writers depicted themselves with a pen during the 19th.c, although there is chance you could prove me wrong. As far as I know, the advent of photography and changing attitudes then saw women portrayed with a pen.
    I only know Richmond fairly well because he was the first maker professionally attributed as possible culprit, and eliminated for plurality of reasons.
    By co-incidence he studied under Fuseli so you would imagine him and Charlotte having something in common, which he implies not. I am not saying for a moment Charlotte didn't say it was 'like Ann' and burst into tears. My quiery is whether she burst into tears because it was so lovely, or so vacant and lost, and yes as you say still mournful, as dreamy Ann must have been after Emily, and the at Scarborough. You must admit she looks quite lamenting, and I'm certain I detect a shadow of dimple on her chin.
    The first difference between fresh portrait and Branwell's 'Pillar' is the mystically beautiful, near divine Emily, even faithfully retaining her 'compressed' mouth Branwell's perception is favourable, yet her brother's Charlotte looks like a toad looking in, no surprise she 'deplored' it, and contrived or chanced to have it superceded.
    Pt.3 follows;

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  22. Cont/
    Ann is very similar in several distinctive respects, and dreamy, gentle in both. Her oval-shape head is distinctive from Emily's heart-shaped head, Charlotte's oblong face is also replicated in both portrait and all three match with the corresponding face and are not interchangable. Within narrow parameter of correspondingly matching head-shape, the balance and distinction of individual facial features is precisely corroborated by contemporary descriptions, and offers no contradiction save the mentioned controversy over eye colour, which this portait reliably answers.
    It was only 5 or 6 years after this portrait the first covert solicitations to authors and publishers were made. Emily is not depicted as the writer, she is, like the artist, merely holding the pen. It's a collective effort and no secret who the boss is.
    To my account it is only Charlotte's eye colour presents a practical obstacle for you, which I hope is now at least 'open verdict' pending record of 'blue' or 'grey' eyes, and your opinion of poor likenesses all three, and that more opinion than yet measured fact. If you take care to critically compare their faces in balance and shape of components you will find they comply respectfully and never contradict.
    I can't presently see any practical contradictions or obstacles to Bronte authenticity, but look forward to examining any uncovered or express doubts still remaining, I don't think it practical to differ too singularly over the facial likenesses which do stack up on paper without contradiction, and are subject to a degree of intepretation and opinion.
    Your doubt is based on improbability only, drawn on the knowledge there is no popularly known record or mention of such a picture or liasion ever happening, it therefore almost impossible it could have happened. Well I wish the world was like that- or do I?
    Incidentally, your opinion about a pen being 'no big deal' during 1830's is a bit off-mark. When did we find out about Jane Austin, or give righteous wings to Martineau or Gaskill? After and as a consequence of the Brontes.
    Hope this helps and look forward to your fresh and valued comments.
    Very best wishes, James

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  23. James, here's my reply in several parts.

    Part 1:

    So we have Richmond's portrait depicting Charlotte's eyes as hazel, Branwell's showing her eyes as I'd say brown you say grey. And we have first-hand witnesses who say her eyes were grey as well. Yet how can we reconcile Richmond's very clear hazel to this portrait's very clear blue?

    Oh, and I don't exactly know which portrait is the one you refer to as 'the un-attributed 'hat' profile of the early '40's pastel'. I know of a hat profile which has previously been said to be of Emily but is no longer considered so. I don't, however, know of any such portrait of Charlotte, I think. Or perhaps you have J.H. Thompson's in mind?

    Another thing I'm having trouble with right now is the following: you doubt or don't immediately believe, if you prefer it so, most things said and even painted by Richmond firsthand, yet you give a huge credibility to the statement that Charlotte walked 'like one with early hip trouble', which has the intricate history of being, according to Lyndall Gordon, 'an impression of the artist, George Richmond, [...] recalled by his son, John, in a letter to Reginald Smith, son-in-law of George Smith (30 Dec. 1909)'. Which is nearly sixty years after Richmond met Charlotte, and secondhand at that, coming from an artist who had painted a good many portraits and could, easily enough, mistook her for somebody else, as could John Richmond too. So I think perhaps you are placing too much weight on something not altogether reliable while not placing weight enough on proved, firsthand evidence and facts.

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  24. Part 2:

    Anne's eyes are consistently shown as blue in all of her known portraits, both by Charlotte and Branwell. And they were described by Ellen Nussey as 'lovely violet-blue eyes'. Never green. Also, while checking Mick Armitage's website - whom you mentioned a couple of days ago - I came across the following description on Anne's hair colour:

    Anne's hair was fair as a baby: a lock, taken by one of the Brontës' servants, Sarah Garrs, in 1824 - when Anne was aged four, is now preserved in the Brontë Parsonage Museum; it is said to be a 'pale gold' colour. However, it seems that by 1833, Anne's hair was darker than Ellen recalled: another small lock, cut off and preserved by her father, Patrick, on 22 May of that year, also retained in the Brontë Parsonage Museum, suggests that it had deepened to a rich brown with a hint of auburn. The painted portraits of her bear this out. (Note to this: The Brontë Parsonage Museum also have another lock that was removed shortly after Anne's death: it has rarely been exposed to any source of light and is beautifully preserved. I have had the privilege of viewing this, and found it to be considerably darker than I expected. I would describe it as a rich medium/dark brown.). This portrait's supposed Anne has a hair colour which is neither consistent, then, with either her other known portraits or the locks preserved, as it is clearly a very light colour, without any 'hints of auburn'.

    I remain unconvinced by the scar thing. I respect Imelda Marsden's view, of course, and it may well be a scar, but we don't know anything about it. It could be Charlotte's, it could be anybody else's (a parishioner?), anything, really. And looking at the original Lycidas and at Charlotte's copy I see the dresses - except for the collar in Charlotte's - are the same. As many other things, of course. Fuselli is depicting a shepherdess, Charlotte copied it: couldn't she be depicting a shepherdess too? Only a shepherdess in the glamourous Angria style. Charlotte copied many other paintings but tended to glamourise them all. As for the crook, I haven't been able to find item SB 377, so can't comment on that, though I don think the height may have to do with either Charlotte's trouble with proportions or it simply being made to fit 'properly' in the composition.

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  25. Part 3 (and last):

    About the writing aspirations you write: 'When did we find out about Jane Austin, or give righteous wings to Martineau or Gaskill? After and as a consequence of the Brontes.' I don't agree with that statement at all. Jane Austen was well-known before the Brontës (as shown by G.H. Lewes surprise at finding that Charlotte wasn't much acquainted with her work) and, although she published anonymously, she signed her books 'by a lady', and Elizabeth Gaskell, despite publishing Mary Barton 'unsigned', never hid her sex or herself. And the Brontës? Not only did they hide their real names and not breath a word about their enterprise even to Ellen Nussey but they took names that could either be male or female, not wanting to use 'positively female names'. Emily, whose pen-holding means so much to you here, had to be reconciled to the idea of her own sister reading her poetry and brought to pusblih it and was then adamant that her name and details not be revealed. Charlotte and Anne waited until after Emily's death to give Ellen copies of their books and let her in on the secret. To me, that is wholly inconsistent with the value and meaning you place on 'her' holding the pen.

    And that was years after this portrait was supposedly painted too. In 1838, the Brontës' were trying to make a living as governesses and don't seem to have real writing aspirations. They were immersed in their juvenilia and nothing else, nothing to justify or suggest a statement as the one you want to see in this portrait.

    You write: 'I can't presently see any practical contradictions or obstacles to Bronte authenticity, but look forward to examining any uncovered or express doubts still remaining'. I'm sorry, and as usual, I thank you for all your efforts, but as I have said before, I remain as unconvinced as I was when I first read the BBC News article. And as I also said before, I don't think it works that way (ie 'I can't presently see any practical contradictions or obstacles to Bronte authenticity'). Conjecture and use of gaps in Brontë history are not all definitive as far as I'm concerned. And I know not everything in the Brontës' lives has been recorded and saved for posterity, but that is so and what we need to base our knowledge on are hard, provable facts. We may speculate till our tongues stiffen as Heathcliff would say but at the end of the day it's the facts that count, not our ability to fill in the gaps with conjectures and theories.

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  26. Dear Christina,

    The chalk of 1850 is sternly bi-tonal with white high-lights, no room for blue. I have sent you BBC news copy of the pastel purchased in 2004 by Bronte Museum, unknown maker thought Brussels 1839, blue eyes.
    Regarding Ann's eyes, I'll very carefully study the portraits again but the oral descriptions contradict and those implying green (though one suggests violet) are plural. I really don't doubt what Richmond said, I just question whether it was her beauty or ghost of Ann that brought her tears.
    I have no problem with any of the things you say about Ann's hair, I don't think you've found anything remotely contradictive and I am very satisfied the hair in the portrait is as is should be for 1838, and amazed the curls survive. If she had hair like Emily I would have a problem!
    Both Fuseli's visits to the 'Solitude at Dawn' theme 1795-6 & 1824 feature a male shepherd. A great anatomist, he chose subjects and dressed them in thin or scant clothing to expose the bones and ripples he studied. Charlotte's exposure is for a different, private reason, the subject wears French underwear and there no muscular anatomy described, only the finely detailed scar. I am sure more evidence supporting the mystery of scar lurks somewhere.
    I think Charlotte was the first female 'novelist' to reveal identity. You bet it was a scandal almost, to imagine a career as a novelist. Can you not see the mischief in the picture, and Emily looks ready to scoot. Why should she sit for Landseer, even briefly? She/they believed him the closest to creatures in all Christendom, not just any hero.
    By 1839 Charlotte's ouevre seems to slow to a trickle. If you suggest these are not the Brontes but a trio who had a stronger will to write even than they, where are they now? You say they had not much ambition to write in 1838, who could have had more ambition than they in 1838- and fail without trace?
    I am not making use of convenient gaps in records, 1838 is date left by maker and corresponds with the images. Branwell was away and all three girls were at Haworth, Ann recuperating illness as the portrait records. My conjecture merely relates to the circumstances under which it was undertaken. Can you blame me? We have a star portrait without cash reciept, a naked leg and an adoring, daringly voluptuous subject admirer.
    Am in proccess of retrieving quoted quotes.
    Best wishes, James

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  27. Dear Christina,

    The Brussells pastel seems to have disappeared from Museum- was it discredited?

    This is new to me though:

    Object number P25

    Description portrait; oval, Charlotte Brontë, brown hair centre-parted, swept back & secured with black lace at back of head, blue eyes, red ribbon tied loosely at throat above the frilled white collar of a dark dress, shawl over arms & shoulders; in deep, ornate gilt rectangular frame with gilt oval mount
    Production place
    Material oil paint, gilt, wood

    Also found W/stick:

    Object number SB:337

    Description walking stick, wood, narrow and gnarled with integral bulbous handle; complete; good; 875mm l
    Material wood
    Dimensions whole 875 mm

    Best wishes, James

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  28. Dear Christina,
    Concerning eye colour of Charlotte & Ann. Have sent fairly good image of the 'Pillar' portrait reflecting Branwell's versions, he has given Charlotte muddy grey I would say, but there is a hint of blue too, and Ann is green as the Scarbourough sea can be.

    I promise to retrieve, I think Ellen saying, concerning Charlotte's portrait/s;
    '-something missing - something about her chin'.
    Branwell has, although feintly, meticulously described the shadow of a dimple.

    A closer look at Richmond's study (copy sent) confirms 'something about her chin' with a centrifugal swirl. It looks like a 'third eye' in the centre?

    Ann's eyes were often romantically assumed or imagined blue. Charlotte's, coloured by Branwell's darkness, and Mrs Gaskell's imagery, were most often described by those who actually looked as blue- and I think there is an addage- 'with stormy violet rims.'
    Hope this helps us over the first 'hurdle' of eye colour and dimple, though it's true I haven't 'proved' Landseer's version. This maker donated, by some prophetic cause, the greatest able care to ensure the identities of these three aspiring sisters could one day be verified.
    Best wishes, James

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  29. James:

    Thanks for sending the chalk cap portrait. I knew the portrait before, of course, it had simply and completely slipped my mind now as it being of Charlotte. You will of course say I'm sceptical by nature or something similar but when it was first 'discovered' I immediately thought it was of Aunt Branwell rather than of Charlotte and I still sort of stand by that. I won't enter into another discussion on another portrait, but I'm still having trouble seeing Charlotte there.

    About Charlotte copying Fuseli's Lycidas you wrote: 'Charlotte's exposure is for a different, private reason'. To me this is highly speculative and completely up to personal interpretation. What I see is a young Charlotte Brontë copying Fuseli's painting, keeping the exact same length of the garment worn by the figure. She changed and added a few things but if you look at other copies by her and their originals you will see that this was often the case. She always added a 'personal touch', if you will. But as to the figure showing the leg, I don't see any private reasons initially as the original does exactly the same thing. If you want to think that Charlotte took the chance the show a scar, then so be it, but that's just your opinion. The fact is Charlotte copied the length of the garment and showed the same amount of leg as in the original.

    Then you write: 'If you suggest these are not the Brontes but a trio who had a stronger will to write even than they, where are they now?' Wait a minute: I did suggest that these three women are other three women who are not the Brontës, but I didn't suggest that they had 'a stronger will to write even than they'. As I have been saying, you place a lot more weigh on the pen than I do and as I said before I don't even need to believe that these three women were writers. I don't know where they might be now, I'm just - again - sceptical of the fact that three women and a pen must necessarily equal the Brontës or someone else we must have heard about. People fail, don't succeed or doesn't even try in the first place, in my opinion.

    Have you seen a photograph of the walking stick or are you just going by the description?

    The eyes and the chin I'm starting to think that it's a case of those things that you see or don't see according to what you want. I don't see the eyes - computer screens are tricky things when it comes to nuances anyhow - and I don't really see the chin, which in any case is much more marked in this portrait, and why would that be. As none of us ever met the Brontës in real life we will have to agree to disagree on that one.

    A good many crazy theories have been put forward about the Brontës - and I'm not saying yours is particularly crazy, please don't misunderstand me - using carefully what we know about them. James Tully was for instance convinced that Charlotte had murdered her sisters. He used quotations from Charlotte's letters and what not and no one was able to prove, to actually prove he was wrong, but we all knew he was. Again, I'm not even remotely suggesting that your theory is as crazy as his was, I'm just saying that sometimes things can be suggested that can't be completely proved that can't be properly denied, unless by using tradition and lack of proof and a few minor arguments. I respect your enthusiasm and efforts, but I just can't and don't believe that these are the Brontë sisters.

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  30. Dear Christina,
    Your arguments are getting weaker, but I feel sure your energy would be better spent with initative rather than resistance. I wonder why you don't want this gift to exist, if you really think it 'would' be great, why don't you seek actual contradiction (as I have for 20 months) or corroboration (as I consistantly found) of what is visibly contained in the picture?
    Your few initial tangeable uncertainties (clothing, eye-colour) have, I hope entertainingly been eliminated. You now diverse into speculative interpretations of several other pictures, which while interesting, are not grounded on any attempted understanding and do little to answer the question;
    'Are these persons and their possessions the Brontes?'.
    I cobble no crazy theories. If something found in the picture is controversial, all the greater significance and biographic value it's content.
    My 'theory' of intimacy between Charlotte and the maker is neither madness or studious brilliance, it is merely looking into Charlotte's adoring eyes, and flipping to the verso nude, you irrationally argue that it may be someone else's or any leg, but forget it was also drawn in 'Lycidas', featuring a distinctive scar below the right knee.
    I know you suggested lot's of people had a scar, but not the same shape and size in the same place on the same leg. No it's not reasonable to suggest the verso nude featuring 3" angled scar could be another female's leg.

    Your caution re. the 'cap' portrait is shared. The sketch feels like one 'of a celebrity' or special event, socially does not fit with Aunt Branwell's life. It has been very astutely, and I think correctly likened to Mrs Gaskill.

    Fuseli's shepherd wears scant cover exposing the anatomy he studied. Charlotte has not copied the shepherd's cloth. Her subject is wearing French underwear, with the latest elastic haberdash. (I studied history of frocks at LCF). Fuseli's shepherd expresses fatigue. Charlotte's figure expresses trauma and pain.
    It is a 'girl with a bad leg' (who took great pains to record the scar). If you see only a 'personal touch' to a hardy shepherd you have not finished looking.

    The 'stronger will' of 'other trio' is your implication, by saying it is some other upstart group who in 1838 engineered and clandestinely proclaimed their aspirations to write. You shore up this unfounded theory by introducing the idea that the pen has little relevance to the portrait. You may not see the pen, but it is right in the centre of the composition.
    You issue doubting vagiaries about their appearances/eye-colour- and then escape by saying no-one living met the Brontes so we will never know. We do know, we can know and we should know, and we should not close our eyes to better sight.
    Best wishes, James

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  31. Well Well Well Well Well; 'would all be really exciting if there weren't big, huge 'but's to everything. And there's practically no need to write the arguments as a quick look at the picture clearly tells that these are not the Brontë sisters. Being three and holding a pen - when they were nearly 10 years away from becoming published authors - is not enough: the dresses, the faces, etc. seem to be all wrong, not to mention that the Edward Landseer - John Nussey - Ellen Nussey - Charlotte Brontë theory is a bit tenuous to put it mildly...'

    Your big huge 'buts' are missing- and the 'clearly telling' of your quick look has not been shared with the readers or me. What was so 'clearly told' that you have no need to write the agruments, and where are all the 'big buts' you refer to? You only have doubt, and why is that?
    You suggest these aspiring writers are not the sisters because they are nearly ten years away from publishing. Do you know when Chrlt submitted her first M.S.? 1836.
    Do you know about her letter and M.S. to Hartley Coleridge in 1839? You really believe they had no ambition to write until 1846?
    You boldly claim that the dresses are 'all wrong' yet I have furnished you with first-hand description of the young Brontes dress that 'clearly' confirms that they are 'all right' (light colours, narrow waist, full sleeves and high neck).
    You state that the John Nussey, Edward Landseer (it's Edwin, actually) Ellen Nussey & Chrlt 'theory' is 'a bit tenuous' to 'put it mildly'. Don't be mild, give us the guff! John Nussey was deaf, prudish or never spoke to his sister? Is there something you know that you are not telling us, or are you telling us something you don't know? Do you dispute John Nussey's mutual friendship with Landseer and the 'batchelor Duke' Devonshire and their annual soires during 1830's at Bolton Hall?
    While I would not impose my belief, only findings and fact, you are free in a free society to harbour your own opinion, what I would like to know is why you 'just can't and won't believe'.
    That sounds not like the argument of reason, and I don't relish 'sexist' observation.
    It's three weeks today since you first saw the picture, and while your opening comments are wholly understandable, they are not and have not proved to be reasonable, and none of your vague objections are based on fact or are academically sustainable.
    If you really think 'it would be great', where are your constuctive, knowledge-based arguments?
    Now it's my turn to say 'sorry': I perceive you have a limited and convenient perception of the sisters which you don't want to update. And yes, if your damning appraisal and ridicule of the revealing portrait were effective or conclusive, some institutions with a vested interest would be relieved- and pat you on the back.
    Truth will always out, and all know well- if you are on the wrong side, it will bite through the toughest shield. Join me, don't get caught mindlessly kicking the underdog.
    Best wishes, James

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  32. To be honest, James, I think the discussion is exhausted. Sometimes people must agree to disagree and I'm glad to do so: your arguments don't fully convince me and according to you my arguments are getting weaker, so I see no point in carrying on.

    After all I'm just an individual fan of the Brontës and it really makes no difference whether I support your theory or not. It's the Brontë Society's take which should back or discredit your theory, not mine.

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  33. BREAKING NEWS!
    Dear Christina,
    You are more than an individual fan and it makes a big difference whether you agree or not. I hope for your agreement, but I more seek your knowlegable and respected enquiry. Yes it's ludicrous to imagine a perfect portrait of the sisters before fame by a great master has 'popped up', educated pessimists used to quip:
    'more chance of seeing a black swan'-!
    One thing we can be sure of; anything can happen.
    I have just received a report from the Whitby Jet Heritage Centre concerning the 'Tied Bow' bangle proudly worn by Ann. You may be aware of object J75.2 at the museum (I sent image and asked you comment?)
    'Solid Bangle, jet with 'Tied Bow' attachment.'
    We agree that's what is faithfully recorded in the portrait?
    The 'problem' is; there are two very similar bangles in the museum (J75.1), and without precise dating and specialist knowledge of the evolution of jet, one might reasonably suppose they were not an uncommon accessory or design, that any three literary sisters of the time might have one, and if such 'co-incidence' occurred it was not conclusive proof of anything except perhaps they opened the same jamboree bag or went to the same trinket-market, perhaps that is why you didn't comment?
    The report informs that jet 'bangles' were not made before 1838
    (year of portrait- check ages of sisters), the author Hal Redvers-Jones states; 'I HAVE NEVER COME ACROSS A DESIGN TYPE LIKE THIS IN ALL MY YEARS OF RESTORATION.' The bangle is a 'one off' from one of a handful of artesian makers during the evolving industry's first decade.
    This suggests that it was made from an artisan's sketch book or fabricated to design of the owner. That there are 2 supports the latter.
    Whichever, the evidence is that no-one, other than the proud girl in the fresh portrait and the owner of J75.2 had such an item in 1838.
    The amusing implication is; Ann Bronte may have invented the (elasticated hinge) jet 'bangle'.
    That lovely speculation is indulgent and premature of course, we may find it was a gift from the artist (John Nussey's chum), along with the oval mount for Charlotte's miniature sepias, and Emily's pen.. This is why positive research is so vital (rather than dismissisive disbelief), and eyes to what the picture can reveal and confirm. I believed you would be convinced with the images of Ann's wide band of light plaited hair with large purple-brown amethyst stone decoration, the gold band wrapped around Ann's left wrist, the exact match of subtle purple amethyst gem blazing with precision, identical to the bracelet still at Haworth. You said quite rightly that many young women made jewellery from hair, but to the same design and dimension and decorated with the same shape, size and type of unusually coloured stone? Two impossibles, illuminating dozens more. It is not a forgery remember, nor cobbled together after their demise. Authenticated of rare (R.A.) achievement and dated c. 1840 by world renowned art historian Richard Ormond, origin and date corroborated 1835-40 by BBC A/R.Show 19th.c fine arts expert Nigel Kirk, so in case you were merely politely returning reasonable parry to what might be a hoax, don't worry, good ordinary fan, your curiosity will be well rewarded.
    Best wishes, James

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  34. Well, here's the reply from the 'educated pessimist'. I'd call it trying to be sure of things, but that's just me.

    What I gather from your post is that the actual sole hard fact concerning the jet bangle is that it confirms the date of the portrait in 1838. Agreed?

    Then we have a couple of jet bangles in the Brontë Parsonage Museum collection - one of them said to be in a poor condition, the other in good condition - which neither you, the jet expert or me have seen. The jet expert has commented on what he has seen in the portrait, I guess. And you have inferred from his words that that also applies to a piece of jellewery none of us has seen. Personally, I wouldn't call it evidence unless I had seen whether the portrait bangle is remotely similar to the Parsonage bangle. But I guess I'm a pessimist there as well.

    I have been reading up on jet and it turns out that while Queen Victoria popularised it as a piece of mourning jellewery after Prince Albert's death, it had already been in use as such years before (1830s-1840s-1850s), which together with the hair bracelet would make for good mourning accessories.

    It also turns out that the Victorian etiquette states that the half-mourning worn by daughters for a parent - after 10 months wearing first and second mourning - would allow them to wear colours such as grey, lavender, mauve, black-and-grey, and white for children. Jet jellewery and ribbons allowed. Now these girls are all wearing one of these colours - the younger-looking one in white, as a child - and these accessories, together with a hair bracelet, which all seems to point to half-mouning clothes. By no means it is my intention to say this is with all certainty the case, but I'm just pointing out that there are many sides to this portrait which we are perhaps neglecting.

    Before you ask: no, a pen was not a mourning accessory, and I know that. But as I've said many, many times before and paraphrasing Freud - sometimes a pen is just a pen.

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  35. Dear Christina,
    You are bang on with history of jet- though it was a localised craft until Great Exhibition when Q.V. first saw and later popularised it for mourning.
    Your observations about Victorian etiquette and the possibility these girls are in mourning is interesting, but these siblings are too early to be influenced by Q.Victoria and the fashion, which is still some 23 years away. (Also we both know the sisters were not in mourning in 1838).
    There is a more specific reason for the profusion of jet in the portrait, and in the archives of the Bronte museum, though I confess to not knowing what that is, except it was mined and carved 10 miles north of Scarborough and may have reached some retailers in West Yorks by 1838. It is also possible the bangle, Charlotte's oval 'brooch' mount- and the pen were gifts from the visiting artist.
    The actual hard evidence is more than you note (confirming date), I have not looked at the bangle at Haworth but I know someone who has, Ann Dinsdale kindly noted in April this year:

    **
    Dear James,

    J75.2 looks similar to your sketch though it’s a bit chunkier.

    Best wishes.

    Ann Dinsdale
    Collections Manager
    Bronte Parsonage Museum
    **

    The "Tied Bow' of museum description is identical to the 'Tied Bow' in the fresh portrait (the essential difference is the artist made the bangle slightly slimmer/less stark).

    What the report states is that not only were jet bangles not seen before 1838- more specifically, the expert has never seen anything like it ('Tied Bow') in a fifetime of restoring antique jet jewellery.
    It is unique, possibly/probably a 'one off' design, and may have been designed by Ann herself, who may have commissioned, even 'invented' the first jet bangle! She wears it proudly.
    If you accept Ann Dinsdale's opinion, that the bangle differs only in width (according to artist's 'balance') you can accept that J75.2 and the bangle worn by the youngest sitter in fresh portrait are one and the same 'Tied Bow' jet bangle. The report from Hal Redver-Jones suggests no-one other than the girl in the portrait and the owner of J75.2 had such a design. Thank you Christina for very enlightening and helpful observation. These girls are quite unique, aren't they?
    Best wishes, James

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  36. James:

    You wrote 'Also we both know the sisters were not in mourning in 1838'. Precisely - I know that perfectly well, which serves to reinforce my scepticism concerning this being the Brontë sisters. Mourning etiquette may not have achieved the prominence it would achieve as the century progressed, but it was a reality already. Thus, I see a lot of mourning symbols (dress colours, jewellery accesories - all typical of the half-mourning period) all connected to mourning not to be ignored. We don't have a contemporary's point of view, but to a Victorian this painting may have very well screamed 'half-mourning' for all we know.

    I insist therefore: these girls seem to be in (half-)mourning and yes, I know there Brontës weren't in mourning in 1838. So that leads to a very easy conclusion.

    As for the jet bangle. Wouldn't it be appropriate to date - if possible - the jet bangle at the Parsonage as well?

    Also, you sometimes state that Anne designed it herself and then say that it was a gift from the artist.

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  37. Dear Christina,
    Steady on with easy conclusions: A jet bangle and possibly a jet oval mount does not a mourning make.
    Jet was a new local craft medium, seemingly one which had captured the interest of the sisters, lot's of jet at Haworth, but it was not part of Victorian mourning etiquette until 1861-. In 1838 the maiden Victoria had only been on the throne a year, and was dressing to kill (Albert) and had not heard of 'jet' yet. The idea it was worn to signify 'half-mourning' during the 1830's is years from fact.
    The points about dress colours may be correct, but you say Victorian etiquette, which had not yet evolved, so no surprise, it doesn't fit either, Emily, as would be expected, is wearing green! The youngest is not wearing white, she's wearing Ann's preferred colour 'cream', and Charlotte of course is wearing her favourite lavender.
    It would have been feasable to say it can't be the Brontes if they are in mourning, but 2 jet objects do not signify a funeral, especially in 1838. Freud was a great thinker like Charlotte but was not right on all fronts, and what he was inferring did not apply to the content and inclusions of art. Ouspensky said all objects and thoughts had a significant place and consequence.
    I state neither that Ann designed the bangle or that it was a gift from maker, I merely say that one of the options is most likely, given the infancy of the craft at time of portrait. It will be an interesting excercise to date the bangle, but how many words do you need to describe a 'Bangle, black, glossy, jet, with 'tied bow' attachment.'. Ann D says the bangles J75.2 and fresh portrait are 'similar', you said you would like to know they were even remotely similar, so surely Ann's opinion satisfies you there? She is intently interested in the progress of this research, and has been consistantly helpful. Her principle difficulty with the fresh picture is how three poor parson's daughters paid for a portrait of such achievement.
    I hope your difficulty with half-mourning has now 'passed on' and you can look at the picture with fresh 'vim'.
    Best wishes, James

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  38. James you, and the fantastic artist, and the inimitable sisters have made their case. The more information that unfolded the more I could see into the picture, and the magic passion, history, humour and intrigue it unfailingly revealed. From the beginning Charlotte's wonky mouth, bent nose and hidden 'bad teeth', Ann's 'pearly white' ones and Emily's 'protruding front tooth' sticking out from
    'compressed mouth' had me over a barrel. Then the eyebrows.
    Add the jet bangle and Ann's light brown hair-bracelet with coloured stone, the pen, the swirled chair, and dresses in favourite colours, and the scar of 'Lycidas', Imelda Marsden's orthopaedic(?) (and renowned Bronte) opinion and verso nude leg with scar, plus the audacious, prophetic statement; 'we will write' has (if made in 1838 and not an elegant forgery), me convinced.
    Your re-interpretation of 'Lycidas' is so contrary yet so obvious, it was the most evocative obscurity in this hair-raising research that really put the spooks up my jumper. I look forward to your book. Hannah Pascoe

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  39. Dear Hannah and All esp. Christina,

    Am arranging intial presentations of the picture and evidence principally for the Bronte soc. members in W.Yorks. They will be in conjunction with book publication, anticipated Nov. next. I will keep Christine and the Blog informed and hope you might be able to reach one of the venues.
    I am delighted you're pleased and hope the picture answers and confirms all your interests and ideas of the young Brontes 'at the cross-roads' with absolute conviction.
    Christina, I am working on a last 'rivet' of artefact recognition with Ann Dinsdale, something which I have not yet had the opportunity of showing or telling you about, and which may be the catalictic detonator for her elegantly reserved opinion so far. I would love to send you the spooky, exacting images, again of a unique object and some, but am reluctant to do so while you only grasp for reasons to support your disbelief, and go silent when your arguments are solved (eg dresses/mourning) rather than narrow your criteria as all researchers should. Cmon Christina, the water's lovely and I bet you can swim! Best wishes, James Gorin

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  40. As Cristina is quite busy right now, I will try to introduce several points into the discussion. I don't think the arguments/reasons to support her/our disbelief are entirely solved. The mourning arguments are certainly questionable but not less questionable that the whole Charlotte-scar-hip problem-'she never walked'(Ellen allegedly dixit) scenario.
    The problem here is the huge leap of faith that has to be taken to assume the Landseer-Charlotte love affair (including modeling for her nude as you have suggested) which is at the base of the whole story. Without it, all the other details are no more than circumstancial evidence. And you seem to suggest that the problem is that as this idea of Charlotte doesn't fit with the glamorized-larger-than-life idealized Charlotte we have, we counter-react just looking for reasons to support our heroine. And, unbelievable as it could seem, this is NOT the case. The problem is that there's absolutely nothing in Charlotte's biography that supports not only meeting Landseer or modeling for him, but a behaviour as the one you hint at. Not anything in her writings (and certainly her love for a married man was already mentioned in her works many years before the Heger letters were discovered). We can speculate as much as we want to but always being coherent with what we know of Charlotte. Suggesting a clandestine love affair with a famous painter and modeling nude for him among the mists of the moors is something that sounds to me closer to a Ken Russell biography than to narrowing my research criteria.

    Sorry, but the water is still too cold for me.

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  41. Dear 'M'., Thank you for bringing to court the main obstacles, in particular Charlotte's scar and her relationship with the maker.

    Under lock and key, some private notes of reminiscence written long after the sisters died, may chronical the 'affair' briefly or in detail. A mention of three parson's daughters- who bravely asserted a 'right to write'- depicted with clandestine grace- all or part may appear and answer in comfort your conundrum and please me.
    I have not yet but will find the quote suggesting Charlotte didn't always join the moorland walks- that she didn't walk well. There is also reference to Emily holding her hand because she was infirm and couldn't see.
    I was baffled by the verso nude until I noticed the scar, which begins to explain the excercise. However, even with the innocent focus of a dramatic 3" scar, the exposure is personal and intimate. (Though not so defined as Victoria's morality, late regency dare not think or see naked flesh unless draped in classical or Biblical theme.)
    If you happen to have a copy of 'The Art of the Brontes' a cropped enlargement of Charlotte's extraordinary 'Lycidas' is on cover. (A fair image is available on Amazon.)
    In the uncropped image the subject draws our attention to the central focal point, featuring 2 neat rows of whitish 'pucker' marks or 'stitch-holes' precisely depicted below the right knee, the residue of sutures on a c.3" wound. I urge you to check that and the bumpy dents and undulations on her leg suggesting trauma.
    The word 'sutures' and first description came from veteran Society member and renowned Bronte researcher Imelda Marsden. Imelda is a former orthopeadic technician and has given me permission to refer to her identification of the suture-holes and what they imply.
    With benefit of detecting scar, 'Lycidas' is evidently a self-portrait- in latest elasticated French underwear- nursing a bad leg. Although stylised, the subject's features match reference to Charlotte and even her slender, small-boned limb with tiny knee-cap is essentially similar to the nude leg on verso.
    I am most convinced Charlotte is the scarred subject of 'Lycidas' by the inclusion of her distinctive, tiny tulip hand, so perfectly re-iterated in the later portrait, and by Ellen; 'her very pointed fingers-'. The unusually 'very pointed fingers' and tiny tulip hand in Charlotte's picture and the fresh portrait are identical. Reliably, both artists had reason to record hand shape, finger length and relative ratios faithfully. Further digging will I'm sure find reference to Charlotte's leg and her connection with the (stylised) walking-stick in 'Lycidas', possibly based on the un-attributed artefact at Haworth.

    Pt2 follows:

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  42. cont/ pt 2:

    The most fascinating point you raise is the lack of reference to Landseer or the portrait or between maker and subject.

    I feel this is conspicuous in it's absence.
    The girls, particularly Charlotte but likely Emily too, were 'aware' of Landseer from Roe Head at least, and Charlotte based some of her earliest experiments on his pictures and ideas. About 1836(?) Branwell wrote 'On Landseers's Painting and she made a pilgrimage to see his mammoth 'Dialogue at Waterloo', though she was as much a fan of the subject. Some 'affairs'- broken promises and even broken hearts are sometimes better forgotten- and never mentioned. This is why I find the lack of reference so intriguing, perhaps a promise un-fulfilled, a fantasy, a broken heart? These would be reasons.
    Just two years after the event of this mysterious portrait she fell in love with her boss's spouse. That is not normal. By co-incidence, at the time of the portrait Landseer was besotted with his patron's spouse, Georgiana Russell. That is not normal. What I suggest existed between them according to her expression and the verso nude is at least 'normal' between 2 'arty' singles- even though he was already a rising star and she merely peeping, audaciously through the stuffy cigar-smoke and tweed of 19th.c English literature.

    Landseer's Scottish destination through Haworth via Bolton Hall each autumn during late 1830's was the company of the girl's favourite author Sir Walter Scott.

    Whether the liasion was engineered by Charlotte, or the 'bachelor' duke and John Nussey- (boys will, if not girls, always be boys) the coach may have terminated at Haworth or even fate broke an axle and he was stranded is to be discovered- the papers I mentioned may say.

    There are so many elements of evidence relating to all three girls it is easy to brush over them without conclusion.
    Deciding whether or not the central subject is 'like' Charlotte is a good starting point, and, hoping you find them of interest I will compile some comparitave observations concerning Charlotte's features and anatomy following this post.
    I hope the above is useful and thank you for inviting me qualify interpretations.
    Best wishes, James

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  43. Although slightly daunting and lengthy, my 'obligation' to these girls and others is easy because there are three of them to match, if one fails the whole case would be scuppered- an I would look jolly silly.
    Even luckier, the sisters happen to be cultural icons who's most obscure detail has been gathered and studied through five generations- since about the time this long-hidden picture was first remembered, dusted off, framed and given to a foundling fan. The papers I wait to explore may include mention of what happened to the portrait.
    Physical and circumstantial evidence, and lack of it, suggests the finished work was never delivered.
    The picture was folded 'recto-out' (concealing nude) and stored for some years- until being framed c. 1860-70. There is no evidence of it being framed previously.

    (Folded in a casual diagonal manner concealing verso nude and exposing portrait to damage- much 'body' of white h/light worn/flaked off- yet no debris found in sealed mount/frame from c. 1860-70.)
    If it had come into the subjects hands, how would it ever escape- and remain folded, un-framed or seen for 30 years?

    Fortunately Charlotte is loaded with peculiarities (as are Em & Ann) of appearance, anatomy & attributes, all much observed and recorded.

    In the 1838 portrait a small, slight young woman wears a high-necked lilac dress and some accessories, the date asks us to believe she is 22.
    The maker chivalrously tilts her head, dissipating the iregularity of leftwards bent nose and off-set mouth, a strategy re-appearing in George Richmond's 1850 bi-tonal chalk and ever after.

    Considering the proposed depiction, one must ask how many diminuitive subjects with brown hair, blue/grey eyes, oblong face, long, left-bent nose and side-ways crooked mouth, (with 2 sisters and impudent aspirations to write) aged about 22 were living in England in 1838? The co-incidence of distinctive features justifies daring comparison of all her features and their arrangement in detail.
    Branwell's and George Richmond's examples are almost the only original source apart from self-portraits- and the Thompson work which is a hybrid of 1830's recollection and reference to the above.

    Richmond's sternly bi-tonal depiction and his perception of the subject is open to interpretation, but he incorporates the distinctive physical features according with Branwell's and the fresh portrait. Richmond recalled that they didn't have much in common or speak much during the sitting, which is odd when you consider he studied under Fuseli.
    cont/

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  44. Many consider his depiction beautiful and flattering- (how she differs from the chubby, contented lady of the controversial photo.)

    Richmond says she burst into tears when she saw it, he implies because it was so beautiful- she gasped and said it reminded her of Ann. I wonder if it upset her because the expression reminded her of Ann, not young Ann lost the paradise of dreams- but her last, drowning reflection of death. So actually I think it very insensitive of Richmond to imply she cried because it was 'so beautiful'. (For best example of his flattery you need to see his portraits of young men.)

    She looks gaunt, tired, pre-occupied, resolved to sadness, closed and un-comunicative.
    Richmond has etched a dimple in her left cheek where her mouth pulls sideways, and with a concentric whirl described a dimple on her chin. He delicately conveys the translucent lightness of pale blue or grey eyes, a hint of fullness in her lower lip. The head is oblong with a lot of convex forehead, a wide jaw and rounded chin, much as percieved by Branwell.

    In the fresh portrait, her 'blazing eyes' (Taylor) are not muddy grey as seen by Branwell, and since faded, they are grey-blue. A mag-glass on the 3mm iris reveals rims of stormy violet (and eyes you could fall into).
    The gravity of Richmond's slanting eyebrows detract from the rounded even arch of Branwell's and the fresh work, and are more akin to the angular 'handlebars' of Ann.
    Of the 1838 Charlotte, the ratios between hairline, brow, eyes, nose, lips and chin, the individual shape of components and overal form re-iterate reliable description and comply with authentic depictions. Add her 4'10" stature, eccentric waist and tiny 'tulip' hand with 'very pointed fingers' and you see the ghost of Charlotte Bronte.

    A brief exploration of her dress and accessories, together with ‘face value’ interpretation of who she is and what she is saying will follow.

    Best wishes, James

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  45. Dear M & Christina & all Bronte scholars and enlightened admirers:

    Seeing Charlotte for the first time was the most riviting, shocking, baffling and dissapointing surprise I have ever encountered of material nature, perhaps my only occasion of true dismay.
    Yet in a plunging nanosecond 'she', the unexpected, strange intruder persuaded me into her beguiling world.
    I'm not an 'art collector' with great opinion, merely a fringe fancier and admirer of those 'rolled-up-sleeves' who explored the limits of aesthetic expression during the zenith of visual creativity, and encoded the social values and idealisms from which we speak.

    Charlotte's many layered gaze is such an example. Achieving her unfaltering flow of emotions and deepening sentiment requires extraordinary circumstance and co-incidence of exceptional character, ability and vision.
    The profundities and subtleties of her expression, the challenge, ambition, triumph, finally so resoundingly reverberating her prophetic motto; 'I am a rising character' is the 'person' the artist sees and believes while making this imperitively faithful portrait.
    Secondary and underlying the objective statement; 'I am a rising character.', the centre subject reciprocates admiration, affection and un-bridled adoration, sentiments born only of those self-discovered complexities, only percieved so compellingly by the subject of her open gaze and comprehensively preserved by exceptional genious. Although assured, this beautiful, besotted, vulnerable girl would 'eat the crumbs of his affection'.

    Why should I hope you look and find your treasured idiom of the Sisters in this 'Cinderella'? To make money, and pots of it probably you might think. That's partly true.
    Now since then, by the grace of something I don't understand but gave my heart to, I have 'found' other treasures, and giggle at the concept of material masturbation.

    So cash is not my motivation in airing this evidence for Bronte fans to personally assess. I hope it co-incides with your hopes and ideas about the significant girls, for whom my respect and appreciation has exploded, and helps everything you imagine about them become assuringly clear.

    The evidence of the portrait cannot be altered or rubbed out, and was intended for careful inspection. Each corner and layer of the picture has revealed elements confirming Charlotte, Emily and Ann's authenticity and their accurate legacy.

    pt. 2 follows

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  46. pt.2
    The infinite, even superficial details of knowledge accumilated in 150 years (eg; Ann's complexion, Charlotte's hands, Emily's height, her teeth, their favourite author), are relevant only if brought to support or contradict new findings or fresh material.

    Sometimes green, occasionally blue, we know Charlotte, perhaps the most accomplished seamstress among the siblings, worked consistantly with the misty and vivid palette of the moors, especially those blue-red spectrums evoking 'mystic' heather hues. (Em identified with 'earthy' greens and rustic browns, Ann wore 'romantic' compliments of soft blues and creams.)
    The high-necked long-sleeved style of fresh portrait indicates autumn/winter/spring, and exactly corresponds with contemporary description. The 'warm' dress fits in with Landseer's autumn/spring bi-annual passage through Bolton Hall and possibly/occasionally Haworth.
    Although not irrefutably identified, the large oval brooch Charlotte wears constuctively represents a (possibly jet) a mount (possibly designed by or made specially for Charlotte) to support the oval sepia pen & ink drawings she made during the '30's. It is too large (almost 2" width) to be cameo or other carved/moulded mineraland it's size corresponds with that purpose. Secondly, the central motif of solid 'cameo' relief is invariably lighter than contrasting background, enabling maximum reflection of 3D detail. The drawing appears to be canine or feline, possibly a lion, possibly representing an actual drawing of Charlotte's, or possibly of the maker's own whim. (Landseer drew lions from youth, and sculpted the magnificent icons of Trafalgar Square.) On the wrist of her tiny 'tulip' (q.me) hand with 'very pointed fingers' (q.Ellen Nussey) she wears a heavy roundulated 'gold' bracelet which has so far not been identified, but may be. She also wears a likeness of the 'other' flat band bracelet of plaited hair preserved at Haworth. Academics may rightly say the detail is such that no definitive comparison can be made, and I would agree, but point to the 'other' unique hair-bracelet precisely described on Ann's left wrist.

    My wish is that the sea of knowledge enjoyed by Bronteana be brought to the picture, to dispute, or merely investigate. Only when individuals look and ask, will any value of this revelation be retrieved. The fact is, every item, object or area of the portrait I have examined and researched tallies with the sisters. Not one single statement, nuance or implication contradicts established data, and all content and detail except Charlotte's roundulated bracelet confirms it.
    Yes we don't know about any romance of Charlotte before Mnsnr Heger, nor any friendship or aquantance with Landseer, even their aspirations to write as early as 1838 is doubted by Christina. This makes the picture so much more interesting. What if, at 1838 the girls ambitions were 'lost' between painting and writing, and the visiting master persuaded them of the hazards and competitiveness of 'art', and actively encouraged them to aspire to writing, perhaps provided the pen and introduced it into the daring composition. Yes I 'propose', Landseer may have been instrumental in Charlotte's career (and following siblings). Note how her ouevre declined after 1838, and year of her first MS submission- under pen-name Charles Townsend. If you think I'm wrong, please make attempt to illustrate, if you're not sure, take a look and be amazed.
    Best wishes, James.

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  47. Hi. I would suggest getting a costume/period clothing expert to look at the clothing. The dresses and hair style are definitely not 1838. They would appear to be late 1840s or early 1850s. Sue

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  48. Sue, it's not obvious to me, or A/R expert Nigel Kirk, or historian Richard Ormond, or the artist himself according to the incripted date, that the hair and dresses are not 1838.
    (We learned, among other things, history of frocks at London College of Fashion, and my modest training agrees with the artist and experts.)
    Shame if you choose not to look (or read the earlier pages of this discussion), but do tell us why you picked on the hair and dresses to 'diss' the potential pleasure of this historic treasure, in other words, how come you know better? I bet you don't, bye. (James)

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  49. 'Hours of Innocence'
    The museum recently sent me a hi-res copy of Charlotte's large 1830 painting inspired by the Landseer picture.
    It shares some unusual features with 'Lycidas', particularly the iredescent blue costume and exposed (right) knee. As in 'Lycidas' based on Fuseli's 'Solitude at Dawn', only the posture is borrowed from the original, no dog's, boat's butterflies or streams, in fact, contemplation of the spindly shrub, and the basket of flowers is equally inspired by the painted clock on the parsonage stairs.
    The posture borrowed from Landseer exposes the lower right knee, enabling Charlotte to record what looks like an ugly, 3" scar at the same angle in the same location as the scar on 'Lycidas' nand the verso of unknown portrait.c
    An incription has shown up in 'Emily's' skirt, there's an 'L' other letters, possibly a 'd' and 'r', may possibly say Landseer not yet fully deiphered, in a different, sloping hand clearer incription what looks like: 'This is of' then feint lettering, and three miniscule rows of spidery text.
    A similar example of Charlotte's 'Th' script is on heading of poem 'The Letter' 1837, which comprises of 6 verses.
    The published version comprises 7 verses. 3 New verses have been added, suddenly introducing the image of a picture, 'sloped as if leaning on the air', and then later, 'th'impending picture' then it fell, Darkened and dimmed and wet'.
    It seems between 1837 and 1844 Charlotte saw a sloped, impending picture, full of mystery, but with inscription, that she never recieved. It also seems, that 'sloping' the head in a formal portrait as in the 'mystery' picture was very unconventional, and may not have been replicated or repeated until Richmond's portrait, of Charlotte, 1850.
    An expert on Charlotte's handwriting would be helpful now, and an analyst of her poems, though it seems she is lamenting something beautiful that came to a bad end. The final verse, I'm sure (ISP nominated 'Best Poet' 2007) is intended to appease acceptablity and the gentlemen reader.
    Hope someone can enlighten. Best wishes, James

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  50. You may be interested in two articles (in French) that I posted on my blog about this subject (a third article is in progress):

    http://soeursbronte.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/les-bronte-par-edwin-landseer-un-portrait-controverse/


    http://soeursbronte.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/les-bronte-par-e-landseer-l%E2%80%99enquete-virtuelle/

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  51. Hi - thanks for letting us know. We did link to your first post a few days ago (here: http://bronteblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/jane-eyre-2011-chicago-and-challenge.html) and we have just posted about your second post today (here: http://bronteblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/quirky-yorkshire-indeed.html)

    Looking forward to reading the third article.

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  52. Hi Christina,

    Could't find your comment on mademoisellbronte's academic enquiry process. The site is fantastic, liable to raise debate and exploration of unprobed presumptions, and may ultimately reveal a truer picture of the sisters and how they slipped the tethers of a *man's world.
    You may be alarmed, eventually pleased I hope, to know on 23rd Dec.,
    the National Portrait Gallery (no, didn't attribute subjects to Brontes) advised that the work was of sufficient quality to correspond with the monogram and feint signature 'E L' & 'L*n*s**r' 1838.
    *You are probably able to tell me how many funny, feminist, masculine, rebellious, 'womanising' artists there were 'among the top handfull' (Nigel Kirk) of British portraitists during the crisply proper early Victorian age. If you search among them you will find none, grumps and whimps and preachers yes, but no dialogue, no opinion, no connection, interaction or passion- no rebellion, humour, humility or chivalry- except in Edwin Landseer.
    Really looking forward to future comments. Best wishes, James

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  53. Dear Christine,
    Some gossip you may be amazed by; dear Branwell's 'best friend' J.B Leyland was a life-long friend of Edwin Landseer, both students of Benjamin Haydon. Landseer visited Leyland in Halifax at least once before the 'impossible' portrait. Re-inforcing the Joseph Nussey connection, this is an entirely independant, seperate and simultaneous conduit between Landeer and the 'isolated' family. I read mention that Leyland lived in Haworth- do you know if this was ever true?
    If you used 'Charlotte's' photo (the contented, robust 'fisherwoman' supposed of 1854) to guage the likeness in the 'suspect' portrait by Landseer, no wonder you said they're not the Brontes- the photo and 1838 watercolour are definately not of the same person. (The thick-necked, mid 40's woman with low, grave brow, slitty 'almond' eyes and deep, strong jaw- with ringlets no less) you have a photo of Ellen Nussey- from about 5 years after Charlotte's last birthday.
    Hope you don't think I'm making all this up?
    Best wishes, James

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  54. Hi
    I am not sure if my last comment was added as I wasnt on blogger at the time.
    The gowns in the portrait are not late 1830s gowns ,no costume recreator has agreed with the 1830s date.I did a faily indepth series of posts on the date issue on my wordpress blog with further posts showing extant clothing from both the 1830s and 1840s from museums .I think you may well havbe posted links to it earlier but as theres no input here from costumers it seemed acceptable to give them a quick mention ,I am not commenting on the actual veracity of the painting just its dating

    http://abigailsateliers.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/the-new-bronte-portrait/

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  55. Hi Lyn Marie-

    There is an authentic, first-hand contempoary description of the girls dress style in Harold Orel's excellent 'Interviews and Recollections';
    ''..I can see them as plain to my mind's eye as if they were here. They wore light coloured dresses all print, and they were all dressed alike until they gait into young women. I don't know that I ever saw them in owt but print- I've heard it said they were pinched- but it was nice print: plain with long sleeves and high neck and tippets down to the waist. The tippets were marrow to their dresses and they'd light coloured hats on. They looked grand.'
    The sisters kept abreast of 'wider' social trends, esp. fashion (Charlotte) through newspapers and magazines, inc. their father's subscription to Blackmore's monthly.
    In Landseer's stunning oil-sketch 'Queen Victoria' 1838, the bodice and skirt structure is identical to the deep, narrow waistline and gathered skirt of the 1838 sisters. In an even earlier Landseer sketch of young Victoria 'On a Pony', the Queen wears a high, 'utilitarian' neckline (and narrow waist).
    Apart from variances of neckline and sleeve structure, little changed until the advent of Singer's time-saving machine.
    If you seek the best advice on the history of frocks, pop in to the London College of Fashion, Prince's St., Oxford Circus- they are very helpful. If you were to show them a copy of the 1838 'fresh' group portrait, they would be able to explain how and why (and when)they were made the way they are.
    Best wishes and happy New Year, James

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  56. Hi James ,Sorry for the very late relpy I have had a Bronte blog break and somehow missed the notification.The problem is exactly what you have put your finger on ," the variances of neckline and sleeve structure" ,though its not clear to anyone who doesnt construct the clothing,or handle it there are subtle but telling differences to the neckline and sleeves as well as the waistlines and underlayers.The dresses in the portrait match perfectly the style of the 1840s such as this gown from the met museum ,,sorry about the anon id ,I cant sign in via my old blogger id for some reason
    http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/80097368?rpp=20&pg=1&ft=1840+dress&pos=4
    while you have an excellent eye witness description it is a male eye view and does not give enough detail long sleeves may mean the gigot sleeves ,tapered tight sleeves pagoda sleeves or even seperate undersleeves.I am again not debating the authenticity of the portrait just its dating.There is no extant 1830s gown to my knowledge in any museum collection which correspondes in all key stylistic details to those in the portrait.I am also aware of the sketches of queen Victoria but those again differ in several key details the horseback sketch shows a riding habit ,riding habits were sporting wear and so not good indicators of everyday fashion ,they were always close cuffed and tailored but the habit displays a neckline different to the gowns and the sleeves are also a different style.

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  57. Heyo Lyne Marie- no, in fact, the obsrvations recorded in Orel were from a woman, born about 1800 so perfectly aware of how to structure a frock (by the way, you naughty girl, it's not only women who understand dresses- I studied at LCF- there was one boy for every three girls!). The girls are wearing practical house-frocks, simple, lots of folds and pleats, no complex sleeve architecture or tailoring, no sewing machine yet. Many detailed portraits feature well-to-do subjects wearing their best, or most fashionable clothes, this gives us a distorted impression of what a schoolteacher, or seamstress would have worn (before Singer and the idea of paper 'patterns', previously clothes were modelled or 'draped' on a dummy, of course.) Emily is wearing an example of her famed 'cuff extensions', on this occasion a lace 'veil' folded back from her writing hand. High necks, long sleeves, lace 'tibbets' and low waists are all mentioned in the Orel account. Additionally, a portion of 'Blackmore's' magazine was devoted to fashion. If Charlotte had no access or interst in creative fashion, where did the sheer & irredescent, elasticated French underwear come from in her racy 'Lycidas' of 1835? It is probable Charlotte was the most productive seamstress, perhaps sewing while the hardy 'Moorland Four' (Branwell, Emily, Anne, Ellen- contrary to what we imagine, Charlotte, walking 'awkwardly' [q.EN] was never a member. I wonder if it was an incident at Cowan Bridge that caused the scar, and her description 'as if one with early hip-trouble). The exceptionally short lady's walking-stick surviving at BM has never been attributed to an owner.
    Concerning the 'fresh' group portrait, the official objections are emotional and not supported by any logic, contrary evidence or (?) alternative. In the 2009 BBC article, Professor Francis O'Gorman of Leeds Uni, suggested there was 'no reason for a top artist to stop by and paint them' and 'no one knew the Brontes (in '30s) outside their family circle.' Charlotte gained regional and national publicity and the attention of Landseer when she exhibited alongside Linnel and Turner at the Royal Northern Festival for the Promotion of Visual Arts, Leeds, 1834, she the only female exhibitor. A stupendous achievement deserving acknowledgement, especially from Leeds University, and those purporting to know. While the Bronte Museum seem to be going along with prof O'Gorman for the time being, their recent judgment has proved wrong, yet they still have not ammended records. The little mousey-faced woman in the 'Bonnet' pastel, BM purchase Dec '04, has been inconveniently noticed (I think 'Echoestains' was the first- astute girl) to be Elizabeth Gaskill. Worse, and very frustrating for 'puritans', the chubby mid 40's woman in the 'Photograph' is dear old Ellen, much older than Charlotte ever got to be, stout and robust, assumed taken shortly before her exhausted death. Can you really (anyway, without doing forensic comparisons) imagine the contented woman in the photo wrote 'Jane Ayre'?
    The girls in the 'fresh' portrait will now speak for themselves. I wonder what you ever made of Emily's 1837 poem 'To my Guitar'. Is it an imaginary unrelinquished love, or a real experience? Compare the quality and depth of concept to Charlotte's original verses of 'The Letter' of the same year, and compare those innocent musings to the tragedy in the last 3 verses- subsequently added sometime after 1837 and before 1844. They describe the reality, stigma, shame and tragedy of Landseer's 1839 confinement. They are to be auctioned at J Humberts later this month.

    As a writer, have you ever wondered why the girls adopted the pen-name 'Bell'?

    Happy Easter & Best wishes, James Gorin

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  58. This is all news to me, and fascinating. I just have one question (and if this was addressed somewhere in the comments above, sorry I missed it):

    What's the provenance of this painting? What is KNOWN about who had it in their possession, and when, and where?

    --Dvorah

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  59. I went to the the first North Kirklees Literary Festival yesterday at the Redhouse Barn, I really enjoyed the literal festival, lots of Bronte related events, but was mainly there to hear James Gorin von Grozny speak on his painting, and how he is going about its 'provenance', I was amazed at how he has followed and connected isolated clues. James' performance had me on the edge of my seat, as the small audience avidly listened as he put across each point, leading us through the clues and evidence on a galloping mystery tour, while James linked events, people, poems and artifacts together and opened our minds to the possibility that the portrait actually is 'The Bronte Sisters'- and that Landseer did play a role in their choice of career. A superb, surprising talk which has me convinced. John Rose

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  60. I was there too. I know James and have seen most of the argument, so I'm on the 'hope' side, but I was enthralled, enraptured- we all were. I was left with the distinct impression that Landseer played a major part in their lives until his shaming madness. This encyclopiedic portrait and it's howling sister colour the dark void of their early years and help make sense of the amazing Bronte story. A brilliant talk. HP

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  61. Has this portrait been authenticated?

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  62. Hi anon of August last, sorry I've not answered sooner. Heinz Archive NPG have attributed the portrait to Landseer, Landseer authority Richard Ormond OBE states undoubtedly related to the earlier c.1836 pastel of same subjects. Thank you HP for hugely pleasing and inspiring review only just seen, discovery has few open objections now, silence 'at the top' still, but media's favourite reference and featured on cover of several books. Best wishes, James.

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  63. Are prints available of this wonderful portrait? I love it! xxx

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  64. Heyo Jean- sorry am slow to answer. The portrait is becoming a favorite, I'm happy to say. Will be pleased to send a file of the portrait you can print (or have printed to scale) but not for sale. My contact kobrinbooks@aol.com.
    There is a ('new') drawing I believe of Branwell, made 'tween Oct '42 and Jan '43, Bran aged 25 & 1/2 yrs just lost his job. Is by a close friend of Landseer (and the 'Bolton Bachelor') and Artists exhibiting alongside Charlotte and Landseer in Leeds 1834. The Artist was 'Birdsnest' William Henry Hunt, a 'cripple' who's friends pushed along the hedgerows in a wheeled basket.
    Have you ever wondered why, among Charlotte's sentimental, and intimate possessions, her needle-case is covered in pair of small, not brilliant mono drawings; a leaping dog, and a bird's nest with eggs, branch and blossom. Although scruffy and cursory, not gems of Art, both are made with authority, not possessed by Charlotte's fine, incremental hand.
    Why treasure a tiny mediocre sketch?
    Returning to the apparition of Branwell, Francis Leyland describes the face and persona hauntingly as revealed in Hunt's exquisite drawing:

    "..a refined and gentleman-like appearance, and of graceful manners. His complexion was fair and his features handsome; his mouth and chin were well-shaped; his nose was prominent and of the Roman type; his eyes sparkled and danced with delight, and his forehead made up of a face of oval form which gave an irrestible charm to its possessor, and attracted the admiration of those who knew him.
    (Francis Leyland)
    Am waiting for opinion of someone who does know the Bronte 'genes', all Bronte enthusiasts know, respect and love her too- if she doubts the drawing I'll dump it, if not, it helps dissolve the myth of social isolation.
    best wishes, James

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