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14 hours ago
This is a photograph on glass which can only date from the 1850s and yet has "The Brontë Sisters" written in French on the reverse. The problem with this is that Emily died in 1848 and Anne in 1849, before photos on glass existed.But now we have a competitor. @realbrontes has been tweeting for a few weeks about a picture arguing that it is 'evidently' the Brontë sisters because of the 'striking facial similarities' as compared to the Pillar portrait. Provenance is not important, it seems. What do you think?
The researcher has many years experience with glass negatives and believes that this is a copy of an earlier 1840s photo (a daguerreotype).
If it is genuine then one day it will be possible to prove, but there are many obstacles.
As with most photos, there is virtually no provenance and can only be traced back to the previous owners in France. It was one of many items they had purchased over the years, at flea markets and sales. As it wasn't thought to be of any significance, they couldn't remember where it came from.
There is no record of a photo ever being taken of the Brontë Sisters but this may be because most primary sources have been lost and there are no diaries.
Comparing the ladies with portraits of the Brontë Sisters isn't easy because most depict them as teenagers and the photo is of three adults. There are descriptions though.
The Brontë Parsonage Museum viewed it in 2012 and it is hardly surprising that they didn't think it could be a photo of the Brontë Sisters.
Without a scrap of evidence, it was a little difficult to persuade Ann Dinsdale that this was a photograph of the Brontë Sisters which has turned up completely out of the blue in France, after 160 years and with no provenance. The fact that it dated from after the death of the Brontë Sisters didn't help, nor did the theory that it is a copy of a daguerreotype and depicts them with hats of the wrong period.
The National Media Museum couldn't help as there's no way of confirming whether a photograph is an original or a copy. As it is thought that the hats are Belgian(Charlotte & Emily spent time there), and of a style not normally worn in 1840s England, there is little point in asking fashion historians in this country.
More evidence was needed and this website was set up in the hope that people would assist. Fortunately, with the help of people from around the world, progress has been made in the fields of early photography, Brontë studies and European fashion so there is now a better understanding of the photo. It was discovered who could have copied a photo of the Brontë's in the 1850s and that the photo is linked with another photo at the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
We have recently been attempting to trace the original 1840s photographer by looking into the history of early photography in Yorkshire and a possible location has been discovered. If this were confirmed then the image will date from the 1840s as the building only housed a photographer in that decade.
Unfortunately York is where the research is needed and it is too far away; it may be a worthwhile project for someone interested in the Bronte Sisters but success can't be guaranteed.
The research is only being carried out in spare time, a few days each month, so it may be some time before the mystery is solved.