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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012 12:56 am by M. in    236 comments
Have you ever wondered whether there might be an actual photograph of the Brontë sisters out there? Well, the owner of this website thinks he has lighted upon it. The photograph is discussed in depth together with its provenance and possible history. Are these the Brontë sisters - what do you think?
Two 'alleged' portraits of Emily Brontë have recently been entered in auctions. News of a third ‘Bronte portrait’ in almost as many months is certain to be viewed with a touch of scepticism. But this find is different.
It is not a painting, but a photograph, and it claims to depict not one, but all three Sisters.
As no photos exist – apart from one of Charlotte - this would be the first true likeness of the Brontë Sisters. If this were proved right it would be a truly remarkable find.
Despite distinct similarities to the Sisters, and many tantalising clues, the photo still lacks that final piece of hard evidence. Because of this it remains unauthenticated.
The research is presented here to give members of the Brontë Society and Brontë researchers the opportunity to judge whether this is a genuine photograph. They may be able to correct errors or help with information. Hopefully at some stage in the future it will be either authenticated or dismissed as an image of the Brontë Sisters.
Supporting evidence versus Authentication Problems.

EDIT (06/03/2012): Additional information about the hats featured in the picture has been added to the website. There is also an (unrelated) and very curious account of another possible origin of the Brontë pseudonyms.


  1. The one on the left has startling eyes!

  2. Well, the lady in the centre is wearing a style of hat that certainly wouldn't have been around during Anne & Emily's lifetime. I would have guessed this photograph to have been taken around 1855-8.

  3. The hat of ""Emily"" indeed seems strange to the periode the Sisters where living in.
    What eyes this "Charlotte" has, wow. Suppose this is Charlotte, why did she believe to be ugly????? The woman on this photographe, who is representing Charlotte, does she have a square face? I don't think so.

    This photographe is fascinating and the website interesting.

  4. That does actually look like Charlotte when you compare it to the only existing photograph of Charlotte. Hhhhm. How will we ever know?!

  5. Tabitha Ratcliffe (d. 30.11.1910, not to be confused with Brontë servant Tabitha Aykroyd), née Brown, sister of Brontë servant (1839 – 1861) Martha Brown (1828 – 19.1.1880), in an interview, published in: C[autley] Holmes Cautley, 'Old Haworth Folk Who Knew the Brontës' (1910), in Cornhill Magazine, July 1910, pp. 76-84:

    „The following personal recollections of the Brontës have been obtained from old Yorkshire folk who knew them when they lived at Haworth. Where my memory has retained them, I have given these reminiscences in the exact words in which at various times – and some of them many times – they have been told to me. In this way, as revealing something of the speech and character of the Haworth villagers at the time the Brontës lived there, as well as showing how the Brontës were regarded by their humbler neighbours, these few recollections, though slight in themselves, may not be without interest.

    That they are few goes without saying. Those living to-day who were personally acquainted with the Brontës are necessarily small in number and old in years. It requires a retentive memory to 'mind' things – as we say in that part of the country where the Brontës lived – which took place more than fifty years ago. This is particularly the case if at the time no one thought that these things would ever be worth the 'minding'.

    'I might have done better if I'd thought there was going to be so much talk about them,' said Mrs Ratcliffe to me upon one occasion when I asked her if she could give me any personal recollections of the Brontës. This Mrs Ratcliffe, who was before her marriage Tabitha Brown, is the last surviving sister of the Brontës' servant Martha Brown. We were sitting in her house in Haworth, the house in which the Brontës' old servant Tabitha died.
    Mrs Ratcliffe used often to spend the evening with her sister at the parsonage, and in this way, as well as in the Sunday school, where she was taught by both Charlotte and Anne Brontë, was brought into contact with the Brontë sisters.
    She [Mrs. Ratcliffe] still preserves a few mementoes of the various members of the family: of Miss Branwell a silk shawl, of Mr Brontë a small hammer he used to use, and of Charlotte a delaine skirt and a white sprigged net veil – which latter has served as a christening veil for several of her grandchildren. Perhaps, however, her most interesting relic is a photograph on glass of the three sisters. 'I believe Charlotte was the lowest and the broadest, and Emily was the tallest. She'd bigger bones and was stronger looking and more masculine, but very nice in her ways,' she comments. 'But I used to think Miss Anne looked the nicest and most serious like; she used to teach at Sunday school. I've been taught by her and by Charlotte and all.' And it is on Anne that her glance rests as she says, 'I think that is a good face.' There is no doubt which of the sisters of Haworth Parsonage was Mrs Ratcliffe's favourite.“

    Reprinted in: Harold Orel (ed.), The Brontës. Interviews and Recollections. Pp. xviii + 221. London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997. Paperbound (0-333-66314-4), pp. 205-213. The photo-related quote is on p. 208, eleventh line from above.

    The example shows that if we preserve the past in our collective consciousness, the future can be the richer for it – and the poorer, if we don't.

  6. The photo bears some resemblance with Patric Bronte picture: http://content.answcdn.com/main/content/img/getty/1/2/3326112.jpg

  7. correction, Branwell Bronte picture

  8. Hi
    I am pretty certain the photo is from the late 1850s or perhaps even the 1860s based on the hat that was mentioned in an earlier post its certainly not a hat that would have been around in the late 1840s and though I am not an expert on hairstyles I would say the standing ladys hairstyle is also more 1860s than late 1840s ,, these comments are based on research from museums fashion plates,,would a photographic history expert be useful as I suspect there were developements in photography during the time scale mentioned that might help date the image
    A Bell

  9. The Hats - The fashion plates of the epoch were for middle and upper class but the Brontes were poor and lived in isolated village. They did not wear the same clothes or hats. Charlottes good friend was straw hat maker and the three sisters wear hats in 1840s when not fashionable. The cloaks are 1830s but the hats look 1850s or 1860s? HELP!

  10. I am always fascinated by these mysteries, but in my experience they usually get involved in so much minutiae that the central question becomes lost. I have no particular knowledge of the Brontes, but as a photo historian, this looks to me to be an attractive if otherwise normal c. 1850s-1860s ambrotype. It is taken outside which is not unusual for a British ambrotype but very unusual for a daguerreotype. The sharpness does not make it appear to be a copy. The dress looks very much from the 1850s-1860s and certainly not c. 1847. Of course one would prefer to see the original but I cannot see any signs that it is a copy.
    I may have read the information too quickly but I also don’t understand the attribution to John Stewart. I don’t see why just because Stewart copied an important Bronte portrait, this suggests he also copied a daguerreotype that might never have even existed.
    It seems to me that all the convoluted speculation stems form an attempt to force a large foot into a tiny glass slipper. In other words, there is an attempt to date this photograph from a period when all three sisters were alive but there is nothing else to clearly suggest the photograph is from before 1848.

    Ken Jacobson

  11. It is all very complicated but a 'Photo on glass of the Bronte Sisters" was mentioned in a newspaper article in 1910; it had belonged to the Bronte's servant. As photos on glass date from the 1850s - after the Bronte's had died - this must have been a copy of an 1840s Daguerreotype.

    The "Bronte Sisters Photo" does look like a copy of an earlier photo which has been removed from a frame as there is an oval or round black mark. This mark shouldn't be there if it is just a normal 1850s photo of three women.

    The link between this photo and another one at the Bronte Museum is that they are both framed with a similar hand cut mat (the border between the photo and frame). The photos are too badly framed for sale or display.

    There are not many photos of Haworth in the 1850s and all except two are framed with an ornate, machine-cut mat. John Stewart took some photos in 1856-7 (copies of a painting) for Charlotte's widow and at the same time, photos of Haworth for Elizabeth Gaskell to illustrate her biography of Charlotte Bronte.

    As so little care has been taken with the framing and the mat has been cut to show as much of the picture as possible, these two photos look to be for an artist/engraver. They certainly aren't for display.

    Stewart was the only photographer to take Bronte/Haworth photos in the period for publishing.

    The photo was found in the South of France and that is where John Stewart lived.

    The women in the picture resemble images of Charlotte & Emily at the National Portrait Gallery and the Getty Museum. The hat worn by one of the women was a popular style in the 1860s but the style existed in the 1780s and was worn in the 1840s as informal garden & beach wear.

    All this might be a coincidence but there are about 20 other coincidences so it is a very intriguing photograph.


  12. Dear Nicolas,

    There are indeed circumstances where the weight of circumstantial evidence makes it appear a particular identification is very likely to be correct. I don’t want to seem harsh, but based on my long experience in photographic history, most of the arguments put forward seem to me either weak or spurious and it therefore does not matter whether there are 20 or 200 such ‘coincidences’. The following merely concerns what I know as a photographic historian. I am just trying to be helpful and to point out that sometimes one can come to conclusions that are perhaps not based on having seen a great many photographs over the years.

    Taking your points one by one:
    1. The 1910 newspaper article is certainly interesting but it could refer, for example, to a photograph of a painting of the sisters.
    2. I can’t see it very well on the internet but to me ‘the oval mark’ just looks like a bit of a smear on the collodion of the ambrotype. Otherwise, why doesn’t the oval go all the way around? The ambrotype just looks too sharp to be a copy.
    3. The mat. Mats and preservers of ambrotypes took many different forms. As far as I know these were only a matter of the fashion of the period and personal choice. I never heard of ‘hand-cut mats’ for engravers? What is your evidence for this? If this is correct, why is there no published engraving from this image? The more ‘elaborate’ mats you found in Haworth are just one particular style of a certain period.
    4. The frame. Ambrotypes typically had a mat and a preserver. That ‘package’ was then placed in a case or frame (though some had a hook to be hung without a frame or with a very simple frame). They have come down to us in many different forms, often just with matt and preserver. Based on experience, I don’t believe the simplicity of the presentation has any relevance.
    5. John Stewart. This seems a complete red herring unless one has first proved this is both a copy of an 1847 picture and is of the Brontes. If we reverse the question and I state that I have five hundred 1850s photographs of women that were found in the south of France, does that mean that several are likely to be either by Stewart or of the Brontes? There are many questions that could be asked here. Do we know that Stewart retired in France and died there? Why would he make a copy for himself- each ambrotype was unique? He was a gentleman amateur and mostly is known for his prints rather than the more commercial ambrotype process.
    6. Resemblances to the Brontes. This is outside my expertise but in my experience no matter how much of an expert someone is concerning a famous person it still becomes a fragile matter of personal opinion as to whether an unidentified photo is actually of that person.
    7. Dress. I am not an expert on costume either. I read what you say about similar dress in the 1780s and the 1860s but remain unconvinced. Could you please refer me to even a single existing mid-1840s portrait where the women are dressed as in this photo? It is almost equally as difficult to find a British daguerreotype of ladies seated outside in a garden.


    Ken Jacobson

  13. I can't help with the other questions raised but would like to give an opinion as a collector of Victorian photographs.

    Over 20 years I have come across tens of thousands of Collodion photos and only seen four with hand-cut mats and the "Bronte photos" are two of them.

    As one photo is of the Bronte's home and the other has "Bronte Sisters" written on the reverse I would say without any doubt that they were taken by the same photographer.

    Commercial photographers used machine-cut mats. I would normally associate hand-cut mats with photos for a photographer's personal use but given the subject matter this might not be the case.

    According to the website, "John Stewart took a selection of views of Haworth for the Bronte's publishers." If these photos were for use by an engraver, an artist would need to copy the image. Most machine-cut mats would have covered a third of the image including part of the subject matter so it makes perfect sense to limit it to the edges.

    The question "why is there no published engraving from this image?" is answered on the website. Stewart "took several photos of the Parsonage and Church. These were a selection of views and an artist would choose which ones were suitable to reproduce as engravings in Gaskell's book."

    To my mind, the crude functional nature of the mats and the extreme rarity of such examples make it highly probable that Stewart is responsible for both of them.

    It’s impossible for me to say whether the ladies are the Bronte Sisters or three women posing as them but the photo obviously relates in some way to their lives.

    John Davidson

  14. I had previously written more than I intended but I could have added that I could not see clearly enough from the web site alone whether the mat and preserver of the parsonage view is identical to what is said to be the hand cut metal mat of the alleged Bronte sisters portrait and whether the size of the two ambrotypes is the same. A perfect match would indeed suggest a possible link between the two. I was merely challenging the implication that there existed one or two varieties of ‘decorative’ mat and that other cruder versions must definitively be intended for engravers. By the way, it still seems to me unlikely that the engraver/publisher of the Gaskell book would reject the only extant photograph of the three sisters.

    I understood the point of this blog to be to determine if this could be a portrait of the Brontes. The previous writer seems to be raising a completely different question which is whether this portrait of three women might have any relationship to the Bronte parsonage.

    Ken Jacobson

  15. The photograph of the three women was found in France. Could they be the Bronte sisters and could they have been photographed by John Stewart?

    John Stewart lived in Pau and was from the early invention very much interested in photography. He travelled many times between France and England. He was married to a mrs Grahame, a daughter of a friend of his brother in law John Herschel. John Stewart was an active member of the English community in Pau. Many English lived in that area with a mild climate on the advice of their doctor. Mrs Grahame (Stewarts mother in law) died in the area of Pau around 1851. In 1851 his brother in law John Herschel visited him in Pau. (I must check these dates).

    The Grahame family lived in Nantes but originally came from Glasgow. Father in law John Grahame wrote a history of the American revolution.

    John Stewart collaborated with the French early photographer Regnault, who was director of the Sevres Porcelain factory. Stewart was a linking pin between the British and French photographic societies. Regnault photographed for instance the German born, Paris based orientalist Julius von Mohl. Julius von Mohl studied cuneiform and was in contact with Henry Fox Talbot. Mary von Mohl - Clarke was born in England and was famous for her saloon. She corresponded with Elizabeth Gaskel and the Trollope-family. She also corresponded with George Elliott and Florence Nightingale.

    John Stewart was born in Dingwall, Scotland. His father and brother Alexander both were clerics in the Church of Scotland in the period of the disruption. There could be a link between father Bronte and the Stewart family.

    John Stewart described himself as a printer, he most certainly was
    interested in the process of photographic printing. With his brother in law John Herschel he was interested in the enlargement, in microphotographs and the positive/negative process with the use of glass. He took some pictures in the Pyrenees and collaborated with French publishers like Marx and J.J. Heilmann

    Of course I am still not certain wether the women are the Bronte sisters, but I hope that I have offered some new lines of enquiry.

    Sjaak Boone, Netherlands

  16. As a historian and collector of antique images, I sadly have to say that this image dates from no earlier than perhaps 1858, but is more likely from the first half of the 1860s. It is almost certainly not from an original daguerreotype and both Emily and Anne were dead before ambrotypes were publicly available. It may--just may--have been taken with Charlotte's lifetime, but most certainly not her sisters'.

    May I suggest that that the following might be entertained: First, that this is a staged image of three women pretending to be the famous Bronte sisters. Second, that this is a picture of three women who were Brontes, but were not THE Brontes. Other people do carry the name Bronte, as a look on Ancestry.com will show you. Third, that these are relations of the Haworth Brontes, although not the sisters themselves--perhaps grandchildren of Patrick Bronte's brothers? Has research been done into possible other Bronte kin?

    I wish I could say that this is the sisters. There is nothing more that I would desire, but alas, I think not so. Something that would also be of great help is the provenance of this photo. I don't see any discussion of where, when, how, by who, etc, this image appeared and who it is currently owned by.

  17. I would like to comment that Charlotte's hair, in this photograph, does resemble her hair in the profile photograph taken in 1854. But what is the most interesting is the fact that in this group photograph, Emily does bear a very strong resemblance to the Getty Portrait.

  18. Wraith Ravenscroft7/12/2012 03:29:00 am

    Has anyone considered that the woman in the centre of this group may be Mme. Héger ?

  19. the centre woman does look more fashion conscious than the rural Yorkshrie girls.
    What about the stone wall? if the pix was taken in thweir home garden which hasn't chnaged the wall might easily be identified from the distinctive patterns of stones and joints.

  20. Charlotte's blazing eyes are here, but a good model would be photogenic and enact that part well. Emily's reserve and Anne's shyness also here, but perhaps they are actresses. The major flaw is that Charlotte was originally plain, almost ugly. The "Charlotte" here is reasonably attractive. The real Charlotte had a square face, high forehead and short-sighted eyes. The photo of Charlotte looks nothing like the woman here. Besides, these are not the eyes of a short-sighted woman used to wearing glasses. Years of wearing glasses tend to make the wearer's eyes, when taken off, smaller, less prominent and less focused. Its' possible the original owner of the photo thought it resembled the Bronte sisters and mistakenly labelled it as such.

  21. It seems to me this is a staged photo from some time in 1860's, taken by a Bronte enthusiast and perhaps of a family of actual sisters or friends etc.

    I believe the words "Bronte sisters " on the back is the title of this piece of art , rather than a identification. It quite reminds me of Julia Margaret Cameron's work from that time.

  22. Why does everyone just follow an assumption that someone else has made, that Emily is in the center. I don't think she is, I think she is the one on the left. And I do think this is the Bronte sisters.

  23. First of all, whether or not this photograph is an actual photograph of the Bronte sisters, it is still a fascinating mystery and a really interesting photograph. It raises all sorts of questions either way. If it is them, then how was it lost? Why was it not used in Gaskell's book? Why wasn't an engraving made for publication? If it isn't them, then who is it? Who are the three very interesting ladies in the picture? Why would a photographer want to stage a picture to look like the Brontes? Just for fun? To fool people into thinking it was genuine? If it was done for fun, he sure went to a lot of trouble for nothing. If it was to fool people, then it is truly a magnificent fraud. He not only captured the look of the Bronte sisters,(Charlotte's distinctive eyes, Emily's tall, more masculine figure, and Anne's quiet serious expression), but caught their personalities as well as discribed by people who met them. Why would he not try producing or publishing the photo to make money, or feel important, or fool the unsuspecting public who knew nothing of how they looked?

    I think there are good questions to be raised on both sides of this question. The exciting thing about the photograph is that it is POSSIBLE. This is a possible picture of them! Sure, the hats weren't in fashion. But it's possible that they owned hats of that kind as they may not have been fashionable, but were in existence. Sure, the time period is wrong for that photographic technology. But it's possible that a copy was made of an older picture. Sure, there would be no reason for anyone to take a picture of three obscure women. But it's possible that the ladies wanted to have their pictures taken with their beloved sisters and had it done themselves.

    I also think that even if it isn't the three famous Bronte sisters, that it is at least a beautiful depiction of them. It is the closest we'll ever get to seeing them as they really were.


  24. I am neither an expert in early photographic techniques nor in historic fashion but until evidence to the contrary is presented I choose to regard this image as genuine as it helps in satisfying my obsession with regard to knowing every detail of this remarkable families unfortunate existence.

  25. Dear friends of the Brontë sisters´!

    Pardon my question and may be silly suggestion.

    The three ladies are portrayed in front of a brick wall.

    If a photographer visited Hawort to take a photo of the Brontë sistes he would probably have tried to find a light and "sunny" place close to their home at the parsonage.

    My question: Is it possible to find out if the pattern of bricks and the bricks column behind the ladies exists on a brick wall close to the parsonage / church at Haworth??? If so, it must be the sisters! Else, the questions remains.

  26. Maybe it was taken by the old church. There is a good photo here...


    but it was rebuilt and I think only the tower is original.

  27. The window of the old church are so big and you can not see them om the photo. The old photo of the previous was of good quality, but I don't it was advisably to take a grouphoto in front of the church.

    Most likly place would be in front of the southern gable side of the parsonage. One can see some buch branches coming from the left side.

    Are there any old photos of the parsonage that shows that side of the house? Is there a buch there? Can one see the brick pattern?

  28. On this old photo of the parsonage seen from south-east one can at least see that there are a buch on the southern gable side.


    The old photo is on the right side about seven pictures down.

    Anyone has this photo in higher resolution?

  29. Out of the many supposed portraits and photos of the sisters that have popped up over the years, I have to say this one of the more interesting ones. I'm no expert, but, if I had to guess I would say it's probably more likely that it's a photo of three women posing as the sisters at a later date, probably the 1860s (which is fascinating in itself). Having said that, the physical resemblance that the three women have to the descriptions we have of the sisters (more the supposed Emily and Anne than Charlotte to be honest) and the possible connection to Stewart means that I do think the photo is worth looking at with some scrutiny by experts. It would be wonderful if it were authentic.

  30. The website which hosts the research on this "Bronte Sisters Photo?"


    "....has been revised with more evidence and information... clearer images to make comparison easier..a revised summary... a new page explains why, what was thought to be the only known photo of Charlotte (discovered in 1986), cannot be of her."

  31. As the scene looks wintery and the central figure seems to be the 'odd man out', has anyone considered that this picture may have been taken after Emily's death, thus the Brontë sisters being only Charlotte and Anne with someone else?

    Of course the question as to why Charlotte and Anne would be photographed in the first place would still remain.

  32. YES, it seems to be the cold part of the year and the buch to the left seems to has no leaves.

    Emily died 19 December 1848.
    Anne died 28 may 1849.

    For me it seems impossible that Charlotte and Anne could have accepted to be photographed without Emily during the short time from Emilys death to the end of the winterseason 1849. Should they have accepted a "stand in women" (even if it was a friend)för Emily? NO, NO, absolutly not !

    If it is a original photo of them I think it is from around 1845 and that it is a friend of Patrik Branwell Brontë or something like that that has taken it (it is so unprofessional and "homemade" staged),
    AND that there is much evidence that the photo has been taken not far from the parsonage house, may be the south gable of the parsonage, or the barn close to the parsonage.


  33. It's interesting to examine the wall in the background. Virtually all buildings in the 19th century in Haworth, Keighley or Bradford (where a photograph of the Brontes would almost certainly have been taken) would have been built of the local stone and not brick. This local stone was typically sandstone which could be of a grey or yellowish brown colour (just go on Google Street View to have a look). The blocks in the photo do appear to be of a yellowish colour. At first glance their size and cut suggests they look more like bricks which suggests the photo may not be of the Brontes. They do appear not dissimilar to the yellow 'London Stock Bricks' found in London. But then there is a certain roughness and irregularity in the depth of the coursing which suggests they just might be of the local sandstone.

    The bonding and detailing of the wall suggests it is something like a garden wall rather than a house. The bonding is varied showing a mix of flemish bond (alternate stretchers and headers), header and stretcher bonds. This is more typical of a cheap construction such as a garden wall, outbuilding or humble 'worker's' house. The vertical feature coming out of the top of the left hand side (as you look at it) of 'Charlotte's' head looks like a pier used to strengthen a garden wall. This would typically be found more often to strengthen a brick wall rather than a stone wall. This is all suggestive that the wall is not that of the Parsonage. If anything this wall suggests it is not one found in Haworth or the surrounding area. But more research is needed - it just might be of a local sandstone garden wall. If an expert in historic buildings could be found to pronounce whether this is a brick or a stone wall then that would go some way further in establishing the likelihood or not of this photo being of the Brontes.

  34. Good idea! This does look like a garden wall but some of the buildings in Haworth do have the same type of irregular stonework. Look at older houses along West Lane on Google streetmap. I think there were factories in Haworth so if the photo is 1840s or 50s then perhaps the stone was lighter (like recent stone-built buildings in Haworth) before pollution darkened them. I don't know the history. If you copy and paste this long link to google streetmap there is a similar example to wall in photo.


  35. I didn't mean to say that the middle figure was 'standing in' for Emily. I meant it could be Charlotte and Anne with someone else (friend, visitor, whatever) in the winter after Emily's death. Of course they wouldn't even have thought of someone else 'impersonating' Emily, and why would they? Even if it was Charlotte and Anne with somebody else they would still be 'the Brontë sisters' if the middle figure was writing on the back of the picture.

  36. I had my own ideas as to what Emily looked like but I probably romanticised a little too much. I think she was the odd one out. Looking at the website, the photo compares well with the portraits and very well with descriptions of her: "Emily was the tallest. She'd bigger bones and was stronger looking and more masculine, but very nice in her ways.” The Emily in the photo looks to be broad shouldered and to have large hands. The comparison with Lewes is especially remarkable.


  37. In a letter dated 12 January 1848 from Charlotte to G.H. Lewis (writer and editor) she answers his suggestion to read Jane Austens "Pride and Prejudice" with the following word (from Juliet Barkers "The Brontës: A Life in Letters" page 199 in the Swedish edition)

    Translated from the swedish edition Charlotte writes:

    "... and then I provided the book and read it. And what did I found? An exact daguerrotypiportrait of an ordinary face, a nice garden ..."

    I find it interesting to note that she uses the word "daguerrotypi" to describe the individuals and the environment in her review of a novel by Jane Austen.

    The question that follows is: Was Charlotte at just that time so much influenced with daguerrotypiphoto that she found it natural, inventive and appropriate to use precisely that word in a review of "Pride and Prejudice" ?

    Presume that the Photo we are talking about was taken shortly before she wrote to G.H. Lewis. Is it not rather expected that she would use the newfangled word "daguerrotypi" shortly after an photoevent like that?

    No proof of course, but may be a little jigsaw bit.

  38. Further to my post above of 22 February 2013 at 1.54am, it’s also worth pointing out that there is a ‘pier’ in the wall on the extreme right hand side of the photo as well as one coming out of ‘Charlotte’s’ head. This is all very suggestive that this is a wall around a garden or yard and is not a house wall. This spacing of the piers, as well as the pattern of joints and courses, could prove useful for any ‘wallhunter’ out there :)

    The height of the wall is also curious. On the assumption that the central Emily figure is sitting down and is around 5 foot 6 inches tall then if she stands up, and allowing for perspective, then it suggests that the wall is getting on for 6 foot high or taller. This is quite high for many garden walls. If this was a local sandstone wall, then the introduction of the piers may be required to give it extra strength. So it is possible that this wall is not simply one dividing one plot from another, but may be a retaining wall: the piers are needed to strengthen the wall to hold back a bank of earth. And we know there are plenty of slopes in Haworth! But of course.... it could still just be a typical London Stock Brick wall of a yard in London where piers would normally be used for many plot boundary walls like this. Trying to be even handed for a moment, does any possibility of a London Stock Brick wall in London also maybe tie in with the ‘Londres’ reference on the back of the photo?

    Thank you to Anon of 22 February at 3.24pm for the thoughts and weblink. Yes, it does show irregular stonework in Haworth on a house wall – and a very nice wall it is too :) If only more modern houses were as beautiful as these. I would have expected all the soot in the air from coal fires in the 19th century to darken the sandstone more quickly than today. But perhaps this is an argument that the wall was new.

    A final thought for any wallhunter. Does the shadowing offer any clues as to the orientation of the wall? The shadow on ‘Emily’s’ eyes from her hat and the relative brightness of the wall suggest that the wall is facing south and possibly east or west but probably not north. This would especially be the case if the photo was taken in winter. Whilst the wall of a house should not be ruled out, does this all mean we are possibly looking for a garden or yard wall, which might be a retaining wall, and faces in an east, south or west direction?

    I realise this is all a forlorn hope. To be honest, there is something about the joints and pointing in the wall that suggest it is weak and just the type of wall to be demolished and replaced with something stronger. So the chances of finding this wall are very slim. But the highly individual bonding and spacing of the piers in the photo mean that if this wall was found in the Haworth/Keighley area then this would be an extremely important piece of evidence. Best wishes.

  39. Further to my post of 23 February at 1.45pm I’ve just spotted something else. There’s an image of the photo on the website which reveals more than what is shown on most of the pages. If you go to ‘An 1850s copy?’ there is a link at the bottom of the page ‘Can we tell if the photo is a copy?’. Click on that and half way down that page under ‘2. The photo isn’t level’ is an image of the whole photo. This shows much more of the garden wall pier on the extreme right hand side. It shows more clearly that the bottom of the pier is broader than further up. There is a small ‘step’ in the pier just to the right of ‘Emily’s’ hand which rests on ‘Anne’s’ shoulder. This ‘step’ is very distinctive and most piers on walls do not have this. If, in the unlikely event that a wall like the one in the photo is found, then such a detail would be very useful in confirming whether it is the wall we see here. This step has also been constructed in quite a rough manner. This again suggests it is more likely to be a wall around a garden or yard than the wall of a house.

  40. The original title in pencil on the back doesn't actually mention London. It is the writing in ink, which looks later and is possibly by a child that has added Londres/London. This could refer to a photographer’s label because if the photo is an 1850s copy it will have been copied in London.

    Only two of the Bronte Sisters visited London together, so if it is them the wall would most likely be in the Haworth/Keighley area. The earlier post about the wall being in a garden or yard could well be right.

    Builders usually used cheap or leftover building materials at the back of properties and the wall in the photo looks very rough indeed. Perhaps it was to the rear the parsonage or some other large property in the Haworth area?

  41. What great cheekbones Patrick the father has! If this photo is of the sisters then Charlotte and Anne certainly seem to have inherited these!

  42. There's also similarities between the painting of Patrick as a young man and the women in the photo, particularly Charlotte and to a lesser extent Anne.

  43. The website talks about photographers of the 1840s in Yorkshire such as Holland and Sarony. Presumably there are surviving examples of their work and other photographers in the Bradford area of this time? Has anyone compared the style of their photos to the one on this website and are there any similarities?

    I’m no expert in 1840s daguerrotypes but one thing that does bother me is that the Bronte sisters photo does look quite arty, the way the figures are at different levels and Anne and Emily are looking at Charlotte. It’s a very well balanced and pleasing composition. Correct me if I’m wrong but this seems to be more often seen in the photos of the 1850s and 1860s compared with the daguerrotypes of the 1840s where people seem to be usually staring straight out at the camera in a stilted manner. That’s not to say there weren’t arty photos in the 1840s and these aren’t the Brontes.

    I also find it strange there’s no discussion on the website of the provenance of this photo. If the copy is proposed to be by John Stewart, then is there any connection between him and the current owners of the photo? This must have been investigated. Why the silence?

  44. Before the brontesisters.co.uk website was altered there was a page on the provenance of the photo:

    “….it was purchased in France with the intention of using it to help illustrate a book ………. the book was not Bronte-related…………at this point in time the photo was not thought to be of any great interest and that it was one of many copies which would have been sold to Victorian tourists in Haworth…….. only later was it realised that there were no photos of the Bronte Sisters and the present research began.”

    The provenance was investigated but the photo couldn't be traced back beyond the vendor, who had also purchased it as “just another old photo” in France. Lack of provenance was stated as being one of the obstacles to the research.

    On another page: “If the photo is a copy we believe that it was made by John Stewart c1857. “ Stewart had abandoned photography by 1860 and after becoming a successful businessman returned to England in the 1880s; he died there in 1887. He appears to have completely abandoned photography because almost all of his photos have been discovered in France. Examples can be seen in several museums in France and they occasionally feature in auctions there.

    They are only suggesting a ‘possible’ link between the photo and Stewart.

    I know nothing about Holland or Olivier Sarony so it would be very interesting to compare their style of photography. On the internet are many ‘arty’ photos by Napoleon Sarony, Olivier’s famous brother in New York.

    This ‘arty’ pose is found in photos throughout the 1840s and beyond, more often in photos by photographers with a background in art. Look up ‘Hill Adamson Calotypes’ on Google and you’ll find some interesting 1840s examples.

    I hope this helps!

  45. Thank you for this and pointing out Hill Adamson. Their images are beautiful and fascinating.

  46. Although I would love this to be a photo of the Bronte sisters there are a number of reasons to doubt that it is. Charlotte had brown eyes but there photo shows someone with blue eyes. Charlotte was not good looking & had her father's prominent nose. The photo shows a good looking woman with a smallish nose. Charlotte was tiny & all of the sisters were thin. Emily was tall & gawky with an overbite. The photo shows all women as being well built & the woman on the left of the photo is not tiny. The central figure has the hint of a double chin. In addition the clothing is wrong for the 1840s. In order to be of the 3 sisters it would have to have been taken before 1848 when Emily died aged 30. The hat in the photo was a fashionable hat in the 1850s not a country style straw hat of the 1840s. The pose of the women seems self counsciously artistic reminiscent of Julia Margaret Cameron. The 3 women have been arranged in a manner contrived for its affect rather than in a pose that they could keep still in for the necessary minute or so for the exposure. This is not a photograph of the 1840s.

  47. I don't agree with that description of Charlotte. Looking close at the Richmond Portrait her eyes are very light brown, hazel I think, and the whole portrait looks as if it has browned with age anyway. If there weren't any comments afterwards that her eyes were the wrong shade in the picture I think they will be right. Looking at either portrait, you wouldn't describe her as ugly in the modern sense and the mid-Victorian definition of thin isn't the same as it is today.

    1. Te Richmond portrait was deemed a fanciful painting, and not like Charlotte at all...the painting most like the sisters is said to be the Pillar painting

  48. A photo taken in the late 1840s only required the sitter to remain still for several seconds. It was the earlier daguerreotypes which had long exposure times.

    This photo is too early to be by Cameron but it is reminiscent of her style which was in the portrait painting tradition. The style was more common in the 1840s & 50s because many artists became photographers and the same artistic poses used their paintings were applied to their photographs.

    The pose, with the two women in profile, looking towards the other one is unusual but it is relevant to the Bronte’s. The meaning behind it might be found in the following quote:

    "I can well imagine that the grave serious composure, which, when I knew (Charlotte), gave her face the dignity of an old Venetian portrait, was no acquisition of later years, but dated from that early age when she found herself in the position of an elder sister to motherless children."

    If it’s the case that the hats only date from the 1850s it couldn’t be the Bronte’s. Given the similarities, the photo would be an attempt to deceive people into thinking that these are the sisters. But this makes no sense at all.

    Why go to such extremes to painstakingly replicate every known facet of the Bronte Sisters, include details such as the different capes and Emily’s tooth? And then, having recreated perfectly a scene from the 1840s, why would they then include hats from the 1850s?

    If it is a photo from the 1850s it would be a very odd one anyway, because it isn’t aligned correctly; the photo slopes down to one side. A photographer only had one shot per glass plate (photos were on glass at that time) so they always aligned the camera before taking the picture. I’m sure it’s a copy of an earlier photo and if so these will be the Bronte Sisters.

    Genuine or not, it’s a little gem of a photo.

  49. There are two new pages on the website:

    The Thompson Portrait of Charlotte
    (possibly based on a photograph of the Richmond Portrait)

    The changing colour of Charlotte's eyes.
    (Why perceptions of Charlotte's eye-colour are so varied)

  50. I don't think the 'Emily' likeness is there at all; in the photo she seems to have a low, long jaw and her nose smaller and sharper than in the Branwell studies. Also the stance of the photo does not accord with Emily's nature (reserved, shy) here she seems to be smiling (the actress possibly finding the staging silly, perhaps?). The protruding tooth is not proven in the photo at all. Also, Charlotte in the photo has light-coloured eyes (blue I'd guess); she was not known to have light eyes; and is attractive - no-one (esp in Victorian times) would have found the photo Charlotte to be plain/ugly. The only one of the three I think looks very close is Anne, the nose and shape of face is very akin to Branwell's drawings. I'd still summarise it was a set up well after their deaths, as interest in them was really ramping up soon after. Also, if there was such a sitting there is no way it would not be mentioned in anyone's letters, surely! A pity as we would all like to believe in it, and herein is the problem. Time to move on I think.

    1. Emily was known to be more masculine, strong boned and if you look at photographs of her Maternal aunts (Edith & Marion), they also have the same heavy long jaw

  51. To my mind the women in the photo look very much like the Bronte Sisters in Branwell’s portrait. They’re only teenagers in the early portraits and the women in the photo are adults, so you wouldn't expect an exact match. Emily changed grew up to be strong, masculine and big-boned, but shy, and that describes this lady to a tee.

    The problem with Charlotte's eyes is that their colour isn't known. Look at quotes from her friends and her eye-colour varies: grey, blue-brown, light-brown, “reddish-brown with a variety of tints” and blue surrounded by a brown ring – so it’s a case of take your pick!

    What’s intriguing about the photo is that both Charlotte’s eyes look to be two shades or two colours.

    If a photo was taken 1846-8 then I guess the sisters would be preoccupied with Branwell’s decline, as well as writing poetry and novels. Sitting for a few seconds for a photo wouldn’t be a hugely important event and if most of the Bronte’s correspondence hasn’t survived, they’re unlikely to find mention of it.

    I'm sure that it isn't a photo staged after their deaths, but if this did happen then you’d expect some mention of it in documents, or in the press.

    I believe the photo is authentic, but even if it turned out not to be, I would love to know why it was created and who the women actually are.

  52. Interesting .. also these women in the photo are not slim, Emily was especially so, from reports, the woman here is not slim. Also, Charlotte and Emily were said to have long-ish, aquiline noses, this again seems to be lacking in these 'models'; also what happened to Emily's natural curls? Odd indeed. These ladies appear to be pretty, the real women were said to be quite plain-looking.

    Would Emily really choose to be standing up and have her hand around her sister? This was not in her character, surely? And to wear such a dandy hat when the records from Brussels show her maintaining her rustic clothes despite reactions from her colleagues; she was not into fashion at all, nor the other sisters. This photo seems too 'dandy' to me, for their natures. Also, is there a wall like this at Haworth parsonage?

    I appreciate Emily is an adult but jawlines generally stay the same proportional shape from 16 (in Branwell's painting) to 26 (est.); this woman's is low and far larger and not rounded, like the 16 yr old's, which is smaller and turns up, not down.

    The photographer commissioned for the book (and after their deaths) may have been told to stage something to go into the books but then the publisher's or author's (Gaskell) conscience may have stopped it. If it was authentic this shot would have come out much, much sooner, for the money value, if nothing else.

    I'm still not in any way convinced; but good to keep an open mind on it.

  53. This stuff really takes a hold of you, huh .. I must admit I could believe it was Charlotte and Anne (at a push) but NOT Emily; that is a stand-in in my opinion. I'd guess when C and A went to see their publisher in London he asked that they be photographed, as Emily was not with them I think they accepted a stand-in for her; picking out someone with a similar build .. that would explain why she is stood up and the other two are not; the facial features do not correspond with Emily at all (not a bit), they would have kept this quiet to avoid Emily's wrath methinks ... so this is as plausible as I'm willing to concede on the matter of this enticing photo ... I think I need to lie down now! Lol.

  54. Yes, it could well be Emily as Charlotte did say that G H Lewes bore a striking resemblance to her and his features do compare favourably with the Emily in the photo.

    There’s no clear image on the web but when you look at the remaining section of the original Gun Group Portrait, at the National Portrait Gallery, the contours of Emily’s face are exactly the same as in the photo.

    Fascinating mystery

  55. Another point to note is that girls very rarely change much after 16, when puberty is finished well before for them (unlike males); so the change from 16 to 26 should not be as striking as the painting is versus the questionable photo; plus the lack of aquiline nose renders the 'photo Emily' as a non-starter in my book; which was probably due to some unscrupulous photographer I suspect (same as nowadays). The GH Lewes comparison is a little void too for me, other drawings of him seem different again (check Google Images) ... all so darn vexing. Ho hum.

  56. Comparing photos to portraits isn't an exact science as portrait painters often flattered their subjects so the representations can’t be taken literally. In the case of the ‘Pillar Portrait’ Branwell was only a 17 year-old when he painted it and the sisters were only teenagers. The portraits give us an idea of the sisters’ appearance but isn’t like comparing one photo to another.

    Many books about the Bronte's contain errors which have been quoted and repeated over the years and some of these errors have almost become fact. The ‘aquiline nose’ quote I think comes from Mary Robinson’s book which also states that Emily had brown eyes whereas it is generally accepted by everyone that they were blue. Who do we believe?

    Some of the more exceptional recent works, such as Juliet Barker's "The Brontes" are well-researched, more accurate and up-to-date. Many of the myths which have built up over the years have been exposed, explained and corrected.

    If the mystery behind the photo is ever solved it will probably be by someone who specialises in Brontes Studies.

  57. It won't be a Bronte "expert", I'd surmise, they're far too biased either way to remain objective with this. Nope, it'll be someone linked to the photographer, if at all; further research is needed there, in France.

  58. Nicolas- you have the scent I'm sure.

    Who ever heard of reddish-brown eyes? E.G also said Charlotte had 'eyes the same (colour) as mine'.
    The Richmond portrait is strictly bi-tonal with white, a formula faithfully adhered to by the 'Ancient' fuddy-duddy. Male perception (Smith) saw: 'pale grey/blue eyes with violet rims.' just like the photo.
    It was not published in EG's book likely because it betrays Charlotte's medicinally constricted pupils. EG claims Charlotte never took laudenum or opium, her literary 'experiences' came from dreams.

    Even if the wall survives, the best test is methodical facial/feature comparison with known images, these girls surely don't contradict Branwell's painting, or the contoversial 1838 w/colour, and since you have 3 identities in one associated group, the odds of certainty are much much better.
    Astute research lately corrects the image is reversed, mirror-reflecting Charlotte's quirky asymetry.
    Best wishes in your pursuit of posterity. James GvG

    1. How do you know that Smith saw: 'pale grey/blue eyes with violet rim' and that Gaskell said that she had the same eye color?

    2. Dear James,

      How do you know that Gaskell said that Charlotte has the same eye color as she and that Smith said that she has pale grey/blue eyes? I can't find it anywhere

      Best wishes. Luna

  59. My toes tingled as I read the evidence presented on the site supporting the the legitimacy of this photo. Such thorough research and study must be congratulated.

    Is there any possibility getting a higher resolution image of the photo? Would be very interested to see it larger

  60. There is some extremely small handwriting in pencil, in the top left hand corner. It is in French and reads: "Soeurs Bronte" (Bronte Sisters).
    Is this written in John Stewart s hand writing?

  61. Regarding the small handwriting in pencil, in the top left hand corner.

    It could be that of John Stewart, a member of his family, or a friend in Pau, France.

    Stewart was part of the group known as "l’École de Pau" which included another non-French photographer, Maxwell-Lyte, so it may be worth comparing examples of their handwriting.

    In the Herschel Archive there are letters from John Stewart to his brother-in-law, Sir John Herschel.

    In the same archive there may also be some photos sent by Stewart & Maxwell-Lyte to Herschel. If so, the framing method could be compared.

  62. Elisabeth Gaskell in her biography of Charlotte says that Emily had very long arms. Looking at the photo I do think that the woman standing if it is Emily does indeed appear to have long arms.

  63. I don't know if Emily would ever consent to having her photograph taken. Also, the standing woman appears fashion-conscious.

  64. If Emily sat for at least two portrait paintings with her sisters then why not a photograph? It would just be another family portrait.

    She does look shy as she's looking downwards and has kept her hat on whilst the others have removed theirs.

    I wouldn't say that she's fashion-conscious as she's wearing a summer hat with winter cloak, the same as her sisters.

    Although it says on the website that Emily is standing it looks more like she's sat sideways on.

  65. Having been a Bronte scholar (for more years than I care to declare), I wonder if I might add an opinion to this intriguing thread.

    Put simply, my gut feeling is that the robustness of these three attractive women does not align itself with the abundance of contradictory evidence which suggests otherwise.

    For instance, does the near swagger of the middle woman's stance and facial expression align or contrast with this quote from Charlotte's letter to Dr. Epp (December 9th, 1848) regarding Emily's demise?:

    "The patient has hitherto enjoyed pretty good health, though she has never looked strong, and the family constitution is not supposed to be robust."

    Therefore, unless fresh evidence comes to light - for example, the discovery of a matching background wall - I must, reluctantly, throw my hat (sadly not nearly as grand as the one in the picture) alongside those of the other sceptics.


  66. I don’t think the letter to Dr Epps adds anything to the argument, apart from telling us that Emily had “enjoyed pretty good health” up until the end of 1848.

    Emily “never looked strong” in terms of health due to her unhealthy-looking complexion. This has been described by various people as “sallow” or “pallid,” but won’t show on a monochrome photograph.

    She is thought to have been mentally and physically strong. People who knew Emily described her as "not ugly, but with irregular features" and as being "big boned" and "masculine." It was rumoured that she sometimes carried her brother upstairs when he was incapacitated through drink. Whether or not the latter is true, the idea of physical strength is there.

    The family constitution and their ability to fight illnesses, was not thought to be robust because they had lost their mother and two sisters to illness. Their brother Branwell passed away a mere six weeks before the letter was written.

    If there were an abundance of evidence against it then the photograph would have been dismissed long ago but If any does exist then why not send it on to the website?

    They are trying to establish whether or not the ladies are the Bronte Sisters and would appreciate any help from Bronte scholars. There’s a contact page on the website.

  67. Re Emily having her arm around Anne, I came across this statement made by Ellen Nussey in a letter to Clement Shorter, Charlotte's biographer: 'She [Emily] and gentle Anne were to be seen twined together as united statues of power and humility. They were to be seen with their arms lacing each other in their younger days whenever their occupations permitted their union.'

    'Power' and 'humility' expresses the two women in the portrait very well.

  68. Re Emily having her arm around Anne.

    "Emily and Anne were like twins — inseparable companions, and in the very closest sympathy, which never had any interruption... but Anne was quite different in appearance from the others."

    Ellen Nussey

  69. According to the Bronte Museum website:

    "a comparison of the women's features (in the photo) with those of the portraits in existence shows no resemblance to them."

    Have you ever felt dumbed down?


  70. It’s interesting to see the photograph of Anne beside the 1833 drawing of her by Charlotte. Of all the drawings and paintings of Anne, I find this drawing the most compellingly similar to the photograph, even allowing for the 10 or more years between them. And this drawing was alleged to be an excellent likeness of her which would give it more credence than some of the other images.

    The asthma reference is also intriguing. I’ve known an asthmatic closely for many years. The look on Anne’s face, the particular way in which her mouth is open (which is quite different to how most people keep their mouths open if they choose to do so), the unfocussed downward gaze, and the slight stoop of her shoulders is all extremely reminiscent of my friend having a mild asthma attack. Of course in those days there were not the drugs to help, so you were faced with the distinct possibility of gradual asphyxiation and death with each attack. Perhaps this might be another reason for Emily’s comforting hand on Anne’s shoulder.

  71. I think that a comparison of these images with the Branwell Bronte portraits tells us a lot about Branwell's skills as a portrait painter. The images are very like in that the features of the subjects in both the portraits and the photographs are true to each other - the only differences arise from the fact that the photograph shows facial expression - which Branwell's portraits lack. We should not let that deficiency stop us from being open minded about the possibility that this is a true Bronte photograph.

  72. I can tell you categorically that as an artist - the Branwell painting depicts the women in the photograph. Initially I was extremely sceptical; I thought that it must simply be a fraud. But if you look with care, there is information in the details that is common to both images; Charlotte's nostrils, Emily's protruding top lip, Anne's Roman nose. All of these things mean little when you look at the painting as a whole - which may well depict the three in ways that they may not have been happy with/ that is simply not very true to life. But we have latched onto the portrait as the only images of them. Their ages must also be taken into account: both Branwell's, as this de-credits the reliability of the painting, and the girls; I images that Charlotte, who looks so pug-like in the image, was probably victim to some puppy fat, where Emily + Anne were still at the gawky awkward age that comes with adolescence.

    The evidence on the True Likeness website notwithstanding, it was the Anne of the photograph that convinced me: she has precisely the same facial features as her father, Patrick: the same slant and length of nose (though Patrick's is obviously notably larger), her jawline, her sallow cheekbones and curve of her mouth. She is the spitting image of him.

    We must remember as well that the lady on the left - 'Charlotte' - who always thought herself quite plain, is pretty only by modern-day standards; a turned up nose, quite pouty, piercing eyes, narrow forehead... These things would certainly not have been the image of beauty in the 1800s, and instead we see the Roman ideal in Anne, who actually by modern standards appears quite plain! Something to think about at least.

    All the v best, Jean Hollywood x

    1. Spot on Jean Hollywood...I agree with everything you have written , Charlotte is only pretty by today's standards....I too, see Patrick in Anne...and if you ever see photographs of the sisters Maternal aunts Edith and marion, you will see Emily in the photograph, has their strong heavy jaw. I do in my heart believe this photograph is the Bronte sisters

  73. Charlotte wrote that Emily had "a somewhat prominent mouth" but it was always unclear what she meant as there are no portraits of her as an adult. Emily in the photo has the same mouth and chin as her mother, Maria Bronte (nee Branwell) whose family were from Penzance, Cornwall. The distinctive features seen in the photo are a Branwell family trait.

    The Bronte Sisters are descended, via their mother, from Richard Branwell, born about 1711 in Penzance. Other descendants of Richard remained in Penzance and one branch of the family lived at Penlee House. There are paintings and photographs of this family on a website (www.penleehouse.org.uk), type "BRANWELL" in the website search.

    There is a portrait of Robert Mathews Branwell, first cousin of the Bronte Sisters, and photographs of his son, John Richards Branwell. More relevant to the features of Emily Bronte and her mother are photographs of J.R.Branwell's daughters, Edith and Marion (who married John Mudge).

  74. There are several walls in the style of this photo at Shibden Hall in Halifax

  75. Completely agree regarding Ellen Nussey portraits - good work!
    Completely agree with Bronte Parsonage Museum statement. It is clear that you want the photograph to be of the sisters, and the similarities you find between the faces in the photograph and those of paintings and descriptions of the sisters are hopelessly subjective and tenuous. I'm afraid it's building sandcastles upon sandcastles.

  76. References to hats in Brontë works published in the late 1840s:

    "...she sprang up as gay as a fairy, sheltered by her wide-brimmed hat and gauze veil from the July sun, and trotted off with a merry laugh, mocking my cautious counsel to avoid galloping..."
    – Emily Brontë, "Wuthering Heights" (1847)

    "...his mistress is necessitated to fetch her garden-hat—a gipsy-straw—and accompany him, over stile and along hedge-row..."
    – Charlotte Brontë, "Shirley" (1849)

    1. The quote from Wuthering heights does not take into account that it is set in the Regency era ,not the Victorian era and with regards to Shirley also set during tne era of Regency fashion it contains a lot of mistakes with regard to depicting clothing ,Victorian ideas are mixed in with earlier costume ideas,Charlotte was not a very god fashion historian,
      Many of the Brontes novels have most of their action occuring long before the Brontes adulthood especially Shirley which was historical fiction set around 1810 ,Wuthering heights I think spans around 1785 to 1810 and the opening chapters of.Jane Eyre and the Tenant of Wildfell also open at the end of the Romantic era and the early years of Queen Victorias reign, consider that if Jane Eyre is only 20 at the novels end,,and the lapse of time implied suggeats longer ,,Janes 16 when she meets Rochester ,allow 2 years until they marry ,though its more likely 3 ,then at least 2 years for a child to be born and Rochesters sight to improve rhen the novel must begin in the 1820s,likewise for Helen .Also the novels are fiction ,Charlotte uses clothing in them very much like filmakers use it now, to establish character ,class and appearance

  77. The Scarves

    In Charlotte Brontë's "The Professor" she describes a scarf worn thus:

    "...in the green and sunny park, whither she repairs clad in her becoming walking-dress, her scarf thrown with grace over her shoulders..."

    "Over her shoulders" brings to mind the scarf, or fichu, layered over Charlotte's dress in "The Pillar Portrait". In "Shirley", Charlotte uses "tied round the throat" in describing the manner in which "a thick handkerchief", or "fichu", is worn by Hortense Moore, a Belgian lady.

    "Over her shoulders" and "tied round the throat" can, of course, mean much the same thing. If a fichu worn over the shoulders is secured in the front, typically anywhere between the base of the throat and the center of the chest, it too is "tied", and so, strictly speaking, circles the neck or goes "round the throat". Still, it's interesting to ponder Charlotte's precise meaning in "Shirley", as the scarves worn by 'Charlotte' and 'Emily' in the photo entitled "The Brontë Sisters" are, quite literally, "tied round the throat."

    "Shirley" passages:

    "Hortense Moore (she was Mr. Moore's sister) was a very orderly, economical person; the petticoat, camisole, and curl-papers, were her morning costume, in which, of forenoons, she had always been accustomed to "go her household ways" in her own country. She did not choose to adopt English fashions because she was obliged to live in England; she adhered to her old Belgian modes, quite satisfied that there was a merit in so doing.


    ...Caroline denuded her of the camisole, invested her with a decent gown, arranged her collar, hair, &c., and made her quite presentable. But Hortense would put the finishing touches herself, and these finishing touches consisted in a thick handkerchief tied round the throat, and a large servant-like black apron, which spoiled everything. On no account would Mademoiselle have appeared in her own house without the thick handkerchief and the voluminous apron: the first was a positive matter of morality—it was quite improper not to wear a fichu; the second was the ensign of a good housewife—she appeared to think that by means of it she somehow effected a large saving in her brother's income. She had, with her own hands, made and presented to Caroline similar equipments; and the only serious quarrel they had ever had, and which still left a soreness in the elder cousin's soul, had arisen from the refusal of the younger one to accept of and profit by these elegant presents.

    "I wear a high dress and a collar," said Caroline, "and I should feel suffocated with a handkerchief in addition; and my short aprons do quite as well as that very long one: I would rather make no change."

    Yet Hortense, by dint of perseverance, would probably have compelled her to make a change, had not Mr. Moore chanced to overhear a dispute on the subject, and decided that Caroline's little aprons would suffice, and that, in his opinion, as she was still but a child, she might for the present dispense with the fichu, especially as her curls were long, and almost touched her shoulders."

    The "matter of morality", in Hortense's view, would suggest that it is her belief that bare skin should be covered. But it seems odd that she should insist that young Caroline, who wears "a high dress and a collar", wear a fichu as well. Might she be protesting a display of skin above Caroline's collar? Perhaps this is the case, as Mr. Moore, settling the "dispute", decides that Caroline "might for the present dispense with the fichu" as her long curls "almost touched her shoulders." I interpret this to mean that her curls serve to modestly screen the sides of her neck and her nape.

  78. In looking closely at 'Emily's' earlobe in "The Brontë Sisters" photo, I see a vertical mark that strongly resembles an earring, perhaps a small hoop. Has anyone visiting the Brontë Parsonage Museum ever seen pierced earrings, or earrings of any kind, that belonged to the sisters?

  79. 'Anne's' collar is embellished with a pattern of interlocking circles. Maybe a celtic knot design?

  80. See "In the Footsteps of the Brontës" (1914), by Mrs. Ellis H. Chadwick, for a detailed account as to why the alleged Héger portrait of Charlotte was eventually deemed a fake. It begins in Chapter XXVIII, on page 395, with "There has been a certain amount of controversy..."

  81. There are several 1840s engravings on the internet of Brussels and of other places in Belgium. These are of streets and parks but the detail has some women wearing hats similar in style to those in the photo and in the links given in the last message.

    1. Bringing that hat back from Brussels is extreemly unlikely ,its a big hat ,its quite a complex design,it would need storing carefuly to maintain its shape ,so a hat box woyld be essential ,which are difficult to travel with and expensive to buy.The sisters only had curtained off alchoves to sleep in in Brussels and little space ,they were also essentially good will cases ,the Hegers knew they were of limited means and so did things to help keep costs low for tne sisters, buying an unneeded hat and box would be very frivolous, Emily had a tiny room at the parsonage certainly no where to store a bulky hat box

  82. In reply to the comment by Anonymous posted on 8/4/2014 with regard to "1840s engravings on the internet of Brussels and of other places in Belgium," and, "the detail has some women wearing hats similar in style to those in the photo..."

    This is exciting and encouraging, too, given the skepticism expressed with regard to the hats. Your findings, together with the compelling evidence to be found at http://www.brontesisters.co.uk/Straw-Hats.html should go a long way in dispelling these doubts.

    More examples that may be helpful:

    This plate illustrates garments that are obviously costumes, as for an occasion, but the "Chapeau de Paille borde de Velours" may be evidence that straw hats bordered in velvet, with upturned brims, were available as early as 1843.

    A hat similar to 'Emily's' in that it has a low crown and a brim curving upward at the sides.

  83. Brontë, Charlotte.—From an old miniature. Cabinet, mounted, 1s. "Publisher," 64, Godwin Street, Bradford.
    Brontë Rev. Patrick, 9d. Geo. Hepworth, 11, Bradford Road, Brighouse.

    The "old miniature" was most likely an image of the Richmond or Thompson portrait, or some other painting or sketch of Charlotte. M. Field & Sons, 64, Godwin Street, Bradford have been credited with printing for the Brontë Society.

  84. Behind 'Anne', on a level with the base of her spine and very near the right-hand buttress, there is visible some metalwork or woodwork. Decorative scrollwork, possibly.

  85. Part of a bench or chair emerges with a closer look, and more of the iron scrollwork. I see, indistinctly, what may be a heart and, topping it, a pair of incurving curls. And, just above, a narrow fantail capping the top rail.

  86. The Bronte Sisters Photo Website is in the process of revision.

    (visit www.brontesisters.co.uk & refresh your browser)

    There's one new page and updates to the Emily Bronte page.

    More to follow next month.

  87. The page with the 'honeymoon photo of Charlotte' and the other 'suspected photo of Charlotte' has disappeared from the website. It suggested that the two photos are of Ellen Nussey and that this was a mistake made in the 1980s.

    I don't think this point of view has changed. The page was removed along with about 20 others a few weeks back after new information came to light. This meant that the website had to be completely reconstructed.

    The 'newly revised' website was to go live in August but it was postponed with a new date now given of "on or before 20 September."

  88. Is it known who originally took the photograph of the Rev. Brontë shown in side-by-side comparisons with 'Charlotte' and 'Anne'? He looks as if he could be in the neighborhood of 70 years old, the age he would have been around the time the sisters are believed to have been photographed (between 1846 and 1848).

    The edges are visible in this image:

    His Wikipedia entry dates it to 'around 1860', but I believe this to be incorrect.

    This is the photo more likely to have been taken around 1860.

  89. On the Emily page of the website, the second row of portraits, there is a new unidentified portrait.

    "Portrait by Charlotte Bronte (reversed for comparison) c1834 of an unknown woman"

    The nose/chin/mouth area looks very like the Emily in the photo.

  90. Emily's earring is depicted in the 'Pillar Portrait' as well. The outer edge of her lower curl points to its top, where it's fastened to her earlobe. You may also locate it by following the short line ending at the hinge of her jaw, or by following a straight line across her cheek on a level with her nostril.

    It's difficult, or impossible, to make out in most of the images to be found online. You may wish to study these two. Zoom to highest magnification possible.

    The rich gleam of gold is more apparent in this image.

    The gold appears duller in this one.


    We are cautiously optimistic that the location – where the photograph was taken – has been identified, along with the name of the photographer.

    If the location is correct then some of the brickwork remains, but not the part seen in the photo. All is not lost though because it may have survived until quite recently, and if it did, then there is a good chance that there are photos of it.

    A definite match would prove that the image dates to the time of the Bronte Sisters because the house was only occupied by a photographer in the 1840s. There's a lot more work to be done but the wall in the background of the photo may be the key to unlock this mystery.

    The web-pages will be adapted to take this and other information into account; the website should be re-launched on or before 20 September 2014.

  92. Hugely exciting news! I look eagerly forward to learning more.

  93. RE. "... The other portrait is a photograph from the life, and very valuable on that account, though it is fading rapidly, owing to the action of light on the silver used in its production. ..."

    The mention of silver strongly suggests that the reporter is describing a degraded daguerreotype and certainly not an ambrotype and may be describing the original Bronte Sisters Photo. If the cased daguerreotype was opened, copied and not resealed properly then the air would over time attack the surface of the photo. Even if there had been three people in the photo it would gradually fade. It is possible that by the 1890s only one person was visible.

    Is the full text available to read?
    This is in reply to an earlier post on 8/19/2014 05:13:00 pm

  94. The full text is available, and an image of the so-called "photograph from the life" is printed on page 482.

    It is a photographic copy of a portrait, not a photograph of a live subject. The portrait is described and pictured in this book.
    Christine Alexander and Jane Sellars, "The Art of the Brontës" (Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 184-5

  95. Any guesses as to what sort of image of the sisters might be contained in this box? A detailed description would be helpful, as 'photograph' seems to have been used rather loosely in the past.


  96. "The area between the nose and the top lip is a noticeably strong feature in both the portrait and the photo, but for some reason, not in the earlier 'Gun Group Portrait.' ..."

    . . .

    "Some noticeable similarities between all these ladies are the strong jawbone, deep chin, prominent mouth and distinctive philtrum (the area between the nose and the top lip)."

    It may be that Emily's "distinctive philtrum" isn't a "noticeably strong feature" in the "Gun Group Portrait" because the fragment that survives is of Anne, not Emily. Note that Emily's "strong jawbone" and "deep chin" aren't evident either.

    Ellen Nussey identified the leftmost figure as Emily and the rightmost figure as Anne.
    Lawrence and E. M. Hanson, "The Four Brontës: The Lives and Works of Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne Brontë" (London: Oxford University Press, 1949), p. 395.

    A snippet view of page 395 may be had by entering 'identified' in the search field.

  97. http://ceramiccuriosity.blogspot.com/2010/08/beauty-and-power-of-photography.html#more

  98. If the hats weren't purchased in the vicinity of Brussels, they may have been bought in York.

    Per info found in a walking guide published in 2010, 14 Stonegate was once the site of a straw hat shop. See page 97.

    The Census of 1841 shows a James Cloak, age 50, at St Helen Stonegate, York. https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MQGR-DYC

  99. Photo of the rear of 18-20 Stonegate in last post.
    There was huge redevelopment overlapping several properties about fifteen years ago so there will have been very detailed site surveys with plans and photographs. The brickwork on the garden side of the extension is modern with different bonding and was probably replaced at the same time. It is a listed building so there will also be photos and plans connected with this.
    The best place to start is the City of York Planning Department for the modern development.
    For anything earlier you need to first find out when the street was renumbered as it was number 50, Stonegate in the past.

    There are some details on the page:


  100. Keighley railway station was opened in March 1847 on the Leeds and Bradford Extension Railway.

    You could get from Keighley to Leeds by train but was it possible to travel all the way to York at that date?

  101. The York photographer and artist Samuel Walker moved to London about 1850. In the 1851 Census he was living with his family in rooms at 14, Buckingham Street. The artist William Etty had rooms on the top floor of the building from 1826 until his death in 1849.


  102. A link to an article with a photograph of the Bronte's first cousin Rose Ann Heslip
    Charlotte had eyes 'as clear as diamonds'

  103. Re: "There was huge redevelopment overlapping several properties about fifteen years ago ..."

    Might this have been it?


    This listing indicates there is a "terrace at the back of the property, overlooking one of the ancient snickleways (alleyways) off Stonegate ..."

    The third photo shows a view through the window. Can anyone tell from looking which snickelway it is?


  104. RE. The brickwork in the Bronte Photo

    There are four places where photos & plans of 18-20 Stonegate may exist:

    The developer of the Stonegate Walk Development was Oakgate Properties Ltd of Wetherby.

    The architects, Regan Miller Associates of Leeds.

    York Planning Department

    English Heritage as 18-20 Stonegate is Grade II Listed.

  105. The researcher has likely already applied to one or more of the above. If a request for access to photos and plans had been granted, I should think that a message announcing a future update would have appeared by now.

  106. Maybe not. See what they say about verification on the possible location page.

  107. Re: "It is also just possible that some of Samuel Walker's daguerreotypes survive showing the same wall."

    Click to enlarge the image of the female sitter.

    A shape nearly identical to the pier seen in the 'Brontë Sisters Photo' can be discerned to the right. See also the hint of a shallow recess, faint indications of brickwork, and the deeply shadowed area suggestive of an out-of-focus bench.

    If the image is reversed, correcting the orientation, the pier-like shape is at left. If the frame is cropped off along with the dark margin, and the pier-like shape aligned with the pier in the photo of the sisters, the match is almost perfect. Compare also the darkened bricks visible between 'Charlotte's' head and 'Emily's' cloak sleeve. There is a darkened area to the right of the single sitter's head, on a level with her ear. If she were shorter, or seated at a lower level, that dark area would be on a level with her hair.

    There are differences. A shrub might be planted where none existed before, but it's difficult to account for the lack of a pier next to Charlotte when the pier-like shape is so near the single sitter. Perhaps this pier was there at an earlier date, but had been dismantled by the time the sisters sat for their photo.

  108. The Charlotte I "know" from her novels and letters is a writer that re-utilized things, phenomena, new occurrences and phenomenia when she wrote. For me, one very strong evidence that the photo is a copy of a real dagerothype of the Brontë sisters from about 1845 - 1848 - probably photographed in York - is that Charlotte uses the word dagerotype in a letter to Mr. George Henry Lewes. This is very typically for Charlotte to use a word she just have learned and got familjiar with by her own experiences.

    About this letter:
    It hasn't been possible to read all her letters but perhaps the earliest mention is on 12 January 1848, in a letter concerning Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' and sent to the critic, George Henry Lewes, she writes:
    “An accurate daguerrotyped portrait of a commonplace face: a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers: but no glance of a bright, vivid physiognomy, no open country, no fresh air, no blue hill, no bonny beck.

    And in 1849 'Shirley' was published and Charlotte became the first writer to use the word 'daguerreotype' as a verb in a novel..... "struck on her vision with painful brightness . . . as vividly as if daguerreotyped." There are two or three uses of the word in the novel.

    That is for me "spot on" Charlottes way to use a new concept (word) that can work as a metaphor for something she wants to explain in a literary way. She would not have used the new phenomena Daguerreotype in that way in the letter to Mr. Lewis and in her novel Shirley if she was not personally familiar with this new phenomenon by herself.

    I can also "hear" her critical tone to this new way to "portray" people just by a photo, no artistry anymore. Her brother Branwell and many other miniature portrait painters were unemployed by this new technique. Charlotte couild have had the thougts and feelings that; If not for the Dagerotype, Branwell may have been able to live as a mini portrait painter, not die as an addict.

  109. Map showing Hornbys Passage in relation to Barnby Way and Pinders Court:

  110. Re: Comment posted 10/04/2014 06:37:00 am:

    This daguerreotype was included in Lot 10:

    I gather the case had no identifying markings, and that a match wasn’t found for the patterned cloth which might connect it to the work of a particular photographer.

    Her dress, with its fan-front bodice and shirred waist, most definitely dates to the 1840s, although she may have worn it into the 1850s.

  111. There are a couple of small but interesting updates to the website which include two caricatures and Aunt Branwell.


  112. http://www.ebay.com/itm/1922-Print-York-Minster-Gothic-Cathedral-England-Aerial-View-Church-NGM1-/311131218126?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4870dda0ce

  113. "Emily was wont to sit bolt upright in the corner of the pew, as motionless as a statue. Her compressed mouth and drooping eyelids and indeed her whole demeanour appeared to indicate strong innate power. A large protruding tooth added to her peculiar aspect."

    This is an extract from a newspaper article "Bradford Observer 17 April 1894" published in "Strange world of the Brontës" page 34.

    Does anyone have the full newspaper article?

  114. Hi all,
    it's important we know more about the gun group fragment, something I am working on. However, just a thought: in the photograph of the image, does anyone agree that the assumption, that upon the table lay game, is an incorrect one? To my mind, the feathers one can see distinctively actually appear to be atop two well placed straw riding hats - one white, and one black (and perhaps a third in Branwell's shadow).
    I'm not even sure if he's holding a gun at all, and that shadow isn't of a curtain behind him. But it's a pity the image is so dark and the original picture destroyed - it looks like we shall never know. But I'd be grateful to know what you think, as obviously the inclusion of straw hats in this painting would speak volumes regarding the photograph.
    Many thanks and much love

  115. ps - i read recently that Emily used to borrow a local horse to ride upon the moors, so riding hats (or gypsy hats as has been attested to before) do seem v likely to the sisters' ownership (also their old-fashioned ideals and so on. I do get the impression they'd be lovers of Instagram and all things vintage if they lived today).


    I just saw a german produced TV program about the Medici family i Florence. "Mord im hause Medici".

    They tried to use DNA to identify a cranium of Isabella Medici, but failed. Instead they took photos of her scull cranium and with help from computer forensic programs they gave the scull "flesh and skin" ans so on.
    Then they compared the "computermade" face with some very well made old paintings of Isabelle Medici and the scientist was 100 % sure that she scull and cranium was from Isabelle Medici.

    If one could open one if the Bronte sisters graves (in Scarborough or Haworth; Charlotte shows her face best on the photo) and take some photos of the scull and use that kind of computer program I am sure it would be possible to once and for all with 100 % certainty determine whether the photo shows the Bronte sisters or not.

    Mr Wahlstrom

  117. For those familiar with drawing + skeletal proportions, what is v distinctive about Anne Bronte in particular, in the photograph and the many images of her, is her incredibly long skull. As for Charlotte + Emily, their chins (Charlotte's broad and Emily's long) are distinctive points. How could we go about examining their skeletons, though? It would surely never be allowed :( JHx

  118. It's amazing to me anyone could think this is the Bronte sisters...
    The clothes are from the 1860's and when Emily and Anne were alive they never were so richly dressed. CB had by far the best clothes of her life after coming out of mourning for Anne in 1850 .

    During the time the three were living, their clothes would be far more simple and of an earlier era. Usually even earlier than the time they wore them! Emily was famous for wearing fashions from the 1830's In Brussels she was laughed at for it .

    Can anyone imagine CB looking so boldly into a camera with her dislike for her image ? I believe her husband could not indues her to sit for even a wedding portrait. We have two of just him alone!

    And this young woman's face bares little resemblance to the other known portraits of Charlotte. She did not have such a square face and jaw, it was more pointed . Also even sitting down, the young woman looks far taller than 4'10. None of them look little enough to be that small

    The term "Bronte sisters " on the back imo is a piece of whimsy and the idea of disturbing, and thereby destroy, their graves to check out this piece of whimsy, is also amazing to me.

  119. Mary Taylor on the Richmond portrait of Charlotte: “I had rather the mouth and eyes had been nearer together, and shown the veritable square face and large disproportionate nose.”

  120. It is very difficult to see the dresses of the women in the photo because they are concealed beneath their cloaks, so it cannot be stated for a fact that their clothes only date from the 1860s after the sisters had died. Although they were never rich, neither were they poverty-stricken, and from the existing relics/items of clothing which exist at the Bronte Museum today, and contemporary portraits, they were known to wear chokers, brooches, paisley scarves and straw hats (as evident in the photo). Their travelling cloaks would have been fashionable during the 1840's when it is believed the photo was taken, and simply styled - would have been well affordable to them.
    Regarding comments about re-opening the sisters final resting place for skull analysis - I understand from contemporary sources that after the sisters' father the Rev Patrick Bronte died, a layer of concrete was poured into the family vault in Haworth Church in order to completely seal it, when the old church was demolished and the present one built during the 1870s.

  121. In November 2010 the possibility of opening the Bronte vault as a fundraising venture was discussed. Here is a link to the article on BronteBlog:


  122. One simply cannot date this photograph from the clothing; cloaks were for travelling (and nb. the Anne of the photo wears a similar thin cloak as in the famous pencil drawing by Charlotte. It even features the same clasp!)
    Also re: their clothing, they made their own frocks, often of pattern - and Anne, again, is clearly wearing something like gingham, which is most probably blue - again, the colour most often associated with her, and a popular fabric at the time.
    Emily was only laughed at for her gigot sleeves and reluctance to wear a corset, however she was known for having a whimsical taste, not only liking the very unfashionable straight up + down dresses that were not at all voluminous (which is odd considering her height) (and VERY similar to one of her athletic Branwell cousins who dressed likewise) but also creating one dress to which she embroidered mauve lightning bolts... The hat in this photo matches her personality (which, despite her resolute introvertedness, expressed itself in a certain eccentricity).
    Re: Charlotte's expression, firstly - she would have been asked to look directly at the camera, or even decided herself; the positioning is incredibly important considering that Charlotte was the eldest. The two stand/sit gazing over to her with reverence. Also, I remember distinctly the first selfie I ever took - and my expression was not unlike Charlotte's; an expression of uncertainty not quite sure of what the picture might reveal about oneself... Remember this was an extremely new art form. And, though Charlotte did decline a daguerreotype after her sisters had died, she also denied knowledge of any likeness of them existing - and then the portraits were found. So we can't trust her!
    Her size is most probably explained by her sitting at the front and also the fact she appeared to have a large head (due to the smallness of her body, and possibly the force of her gaze + power of her expression).

    And to disturb the graves is not just to prove the photograph at all, but to merely examine - as they did with Richard III - their skulls so as to actually, finally, get to SOME grips with what they might have looked like. There are SO few images - and to be quite frank I don't know why so many wish to ensnare their faces to the vaults of history - when Charlotte ABHORRED the portraits her brother did of her.
    Were she alive today she would probably cite some Providence giving us this lost photograph, so as to give us sorry lot a true idea (considering how photography is so huge today) of what she actually looked like.

    oh and so far as I know, they haven't sealed Anne's grave with cement, and Anne would be the only one we'd need.

    To be quite honest and quite frank, I think the Parsonage is just pissed they've had the wrong photograph for however many years. Well get a grip guys, you're a museum - you're allowed to make mistakes, but you HAVE to move forward with the spirit of free enquiry and investigation, you can't just slam your doors to those of us who wish to see the girls for who they truly were. And don't forget - Anne and Charlotte were paragons of finding the Truth (almost in the divine sense). Let us find it here. x

  123. Look, Friends and Fellow Bronte Fans,
    I think we all want an actual photo of these wonderful women so much that we convince ourselves all photos are authentic. I don't think they are. I think the photo is simply too late and that, had such a photo existed, Charlotte would have mentioned it in private letters to Ellen, etc. They best we can do, unfortunately, is piece together in our minds an image of Charlotte like the Richmond photo, only a little less flattering in life, such as photos vs. portraits of Queen Victoria show. I, too, would like the lovely eyes of the lady in the photo to belong to our Charlotte, but I don't think it is her. However, in person, I believe Charlotte with her reputedly lovely eyes was far better looking than she herself or the women-hating men like Thackeray believed.

  124. The Bronte sisters each managed to write a novel without telling their own father, who was living under the same roof.

    He was completely unaware until after publication.

    The three sisters were secretive and very private so if a photograph did exist there will be little if any mention of it.

  125. P.S.

    Would it be completly wrong to move the cranium of Anne Brotë from the cementry in Scarborough to the family tomb in Haworth ?

    Why shall she continue to lie buried there alone, far from her old hometown and family ?

    And then at the same time take some photos of her skull.

    Mr Wahlstrom

  126. I think it would be wrong. The dignity of people who have once lived should not be sacrificed to satisfy the curiosity of the currently living.

  127. Well, then it was wrong done by the fifht Earl of Carnavon and Howard Carter to open the Tutancamo tomb in Egypt 1922, and all other archaeological investigations all over the world tha last hundreds of years and more. And to digg in the mud in Flandern to find information from WW1. And so on. Has that been done with "dignity" to the dead ?
    It is not so uncommon to move a cranium from a "wrong and far away" cementry to a more appropriate and proper.

    If mankind had no curiosity we were still eating raw meat and go around in fur-bearing togs.

    Well, well....

    Someone has deleted my text and information on this site, on how to see the complete TV-film "Murder im hause Medici" on the Internet. Pity, because that would have given a better and more complete information on the method of making a 3D-photo of scull-photos and to compare that with old paintings and old photos.

    Well, well, I don´t mind if anyone aren´t interested in solving this issue.

    Mr Wahlstrom

  128. I'm really not sure why, amid the great flurry of evidence that we have at our disposal, that anyone is still questioning this photograph. Charlotte's gaze speaks for itself.

  129. Hi all, some of you might be interested in a PechaKucha talk I was recently part of in my hometown. It's about how we can know what the Brontes looked like........ I didn't mention this photograph as it's still deemed inauthentic but I thought I'd look at what we can know, for sure. Excuse the slight disjointed audio, I had to re-record it after the slides went funny at the actual presentation. Hope you enjoy it x

  130. http://www.pechakucha.org/cities/bedford/presentations/the-faces-of-the-brontes

  131. How could you give an entire presentation about what the Brontes may have looked like without mentioning this photo? Authentic or not, it's surely the most interesting thing that's happened for Bronte fans in years!

  132. I am fascinated by this portrait and feel it could very well be authentic. As someone who has collected daguerreotypes and ambrotypes for years, I find several things that make it very obvious to me that this is a copy of an earlier dag, which supports the idea that it may be the sisters. After reading your site from start to finish and analyzing all the photographic evidence that you present, I find the resemblances to be astonishing. I have studied and taught the Bronte sisters for years and find this discovery very exciting. I hope you are able to actually authentic this image through the wall or photography link. It would truly change the entire way we see the Bronte sisters! Thanks so much for presenting this fascinating photograph to the world.

  133. Dear May,
    there are many misconceptions regarding what they looked like, and general ideas that have been passed down during the last century scholar to scholar, that actually, it appears, are false or at least misleading.
    If you take every account of the sisters' appearances, and their likenesses [which it MUST be noted, there are a finite number of], the photograph clearly matches up with every one of these - I wanted to just begin a re-orientating of our ideas, before we re-examine the photograph afresh. Despite this, many scholars are so far extremely set in their ways, and it will take some time for ideas to truly change and for an holistic grasp on the subject to grow. But to be honest I think the evidence is truly what is important, despite the photograph's lack of provenance. Everything else simply matches up, and it is wonderful to see so many people here agreeing, where so many experts [experts!] are extremely hesitant to say one way or the other, which is, understandably, frustrating for the rest of us - especially those that have dedicated much of our time to the research in question. Aside from direct dialogue, I have been expressing my findings through that talk, and my own drawings of the sisters - many of which can be found at my instagram [linked with my name].
    The truth will, of course, out - with time [and the truth was something that the girls were deeply committed to, which is quite sweetly poetic in my opinion :)]

  134. http://bronteblog.blogspot.com/2014/10/are-these-brontes-or-those.html?showComment=1421668449819#c5098937227604232569

  135. The ‘Emily’ in the photograph does, in every respect, resemble the oval 'Profile of a Woman' by Charlotte which is contemporaneous with her other oval Profile Portrait of Anne.


    This is certainly not coincidental.

  136. Emily had a tendency for playful mischief albeit her reserve. Ellen described that she detected a "spell of mischief" in Emily while on the moors (she was also the most kindhearted and bravest of the three according to Martha Brown) and had a magnanimous character. The middle person in that photo has a lot of that: she turns her head and half closes her eyes in reserve but at the same time she's got a hint of a mischievous smile. Her stance and that smile emanate magnanimity and serenity. That face is full of character. Or am I just reading too much into it!

  137. I think you have read it well

  138. Here is a link to an article in The Guardian:

  139. The adoption of foreign fashions by English girls educated abroad in the Victorian era is perhaps not that unusual.

    In the 1870s Emmeline Pankhurst "returned to Manchester having learnt to wear her hair and her clothes like a Parisian."


  140. I'm guessing Emily is in the middle, and Anne on the right. Emily was the tallest sister, and the girl in the middle, though I know she is standing, I feel would stand taller than the other two anyway.

  141. All three women are seated.

  142. Even eyeballing it, it's apparent that the woman at left is notably shorter in the torso than the woman in the center, indicating a marked height difference. Charlotte is estimated to have been 4'9" to 4'10" tall, and Emily around 5'6".

  143. There is a blog in Italian for the Bronte photo ;-


  144. If the portrait of Emily Bronte at the National Portrait Gallery is of Anne Bronte then this is astounding but if they are right then why has it taken 100 years to make this discovery when the evidence was there all the time in the tracings?

    The other portrait of Emily in the group which is presumably genuine has the features of George Henry Lewes and so has the woman in the photograph. This needs investigating by the National Portrait Gallery.

  145. The National Portrait Gallery must already know about the identity question because there is a note on their website.

  146. This is certainly an emotionally baffling mystery to any Bronte lover. I very much want this to be a photograph of them, but I believe the likelihood of this to be slender. Still, the researcher, whoever they may be, builds up a well researched, compelling case. The likeness between "Emily" and the Branwell cousins is a stunner. The earring she wears in the photograph and the earring on the unknown woman in Charlotte's sketch seem to be no small coincidence either. The mismatched cloaks are compelling too, with "Anne" wearing the unlike thinner fabric having never made the winter trip to Brussels. I find the hair on the "Charlotte" to be consistent with all descriptions of her coif throughout her life as well; poorly waved or curled- perhaps a little mismanaged or forced into an unnatural style, and noticeably thinner at the center part and along the front hairline. Richmond thought she was wearing a hat and removed it for her when she sat for her portrait... It was really a not so great looking hairpiece that ended up in his hand. She was horrified! Which leads me to wonder...

    Why would a woman so fixated and paranoid about her appearance face a camera with such bravura? Aren't we talking about the lady who twisted so far out of her seat to conceal her face that she nearly fell over? I see some reserve in this lady, but nothing like what Mrs. Gaskell, Thackary, or Smith would describe. I also find Emily Bronte to be an impossible sitter for a photograph by the time she would reach the age of this subject. She was well out of the bounds of cooperation at this point of her life. She no longer attended the church where her father presided. She held no social ties outside of the home. She was becoming increasingly erratic inside of the home, with Charlotte implying after her death that she was unwell way before the brief illness that ended her life. She had difficulty interacting with all strangers. Do I think she would consent to interacting with a photographer, most probably a male, for at least long enough to stage a scene and capture it with a new and extremely delicate technology? With a smile on her face? This just seems to me impossible. She would likely sneer at the idea of posing for anything at this point in her life.

    I WANT to believe. But the years and years of reading and researching, pouring over those novels, the sketches, the portraits... I just can't quite feel like it's within the realm of the possible. Someone please weigh in on the psychological probability!

    1. Reading Lucasta Miller's 'The Bronte Myth' may help.

    2. Please let us not forget that all three of the Bronte girls loved art and were well versed in it - and photography would have been a fascinating new art form akin to smart-technology today. As such, it is probable that, were there adequate photography houses nearby - and there were - this may have been part of their publishing plan. I do not like the attestation that Emily was in poor mental health, indeed she had incredible strength of mind; but as Ellen Nussey states, her smile had a warmth that soothed the heart; despite her reserve she had a playfulness, a love of animals, a child-like adoration of the natural world, as when playing with tadpoles in the stream by the falls on the moor and so on. Just because she was reserved does not mean that she lacked interest in the human world - indeed she was very keen on mathematics and good at navigation - a scientific art such as photography may well have even been her suggestion..! Anne would have romanticized it, Charlotte, so very self conscious, would likely have been the most unwilling - and that bears out in the image. Likewise, Charlotte is the reason the two famous portraits were hidden, considered lost, for some 53 years - I would suggest that she is equally the reason that this photograph has only just been found.

    3. Charlotte denies any likeness of Emily or Anne being in her custody when she writes William Smith Williams on September 29th 1850, in regards to editing a new edition of "Wuthering Heights" and "Agnes Grey"...
      "I grieve to say that I possess no portrait of either of my sisters."
      Yet in "The Life," Elizabeth Gaskell describes in some detail Charlotte's showing her the Pillar Portrait (the annotated Penguin edition sites the Gun Group as the piece but this painting lacked a pillar so clearly described by Gaskill.)
      Indeed Charlotte could of kept any portraiture from a publisher for the sake of privacy. It is one thing to show a family friend a likeness. It is something else to allow your departed's face to be splashed over a book jacket. But had she a photograph would she of shown Gaskell? Perhaps. They were not intimately close, but they did enjoy a warm correspondence and several meetings over Charlotte's remaining years.

    4. From Elizabeth Gaskell's "Life Of Charlotte Bronte,"

      "...there could be no doubt about Branwell's talent for drawing. I have seen an oil painting of his, done I know not when... It was a group of his sisters, life size, three quarters' length, not much better than sign painting..."

      This encounter occured during her 1853 visit to the Parsonage.
      The hilarious part of it is, William Smith Williams proofed "The Life." As the official reader for Elder Smith and Co., it was he who made the request of Charlotte for a likeness of her deceased sisters for the second editions of "Wuthering Heights" and "Agnes Grey." Therefore, he was the very first to know that Charlotte had absolutely lied about having no likeness of Emily and Anne....

  147. I have in my possession an early CDV photo of the Redmond painting of Charlotte Bronte. However this has a stamp on the back of the photo of the local chemist in Haworth. (J.Moore chemist Haworth)

    This suggests to me that the local chemist was allowed to photograph this photo and not just John Stewart who it is said only made copies for Charlotte Bronte's father and husband.

    I also have an early photo of the parsonage and church from about 1860 both with the local chemist J. Moore stamp on the back.

    This suggests that the local chemist was engaged in taking or selling photos of the Bronte story as early as 1860.

  148. The researchers have done a stomping job. The material forensics relating the physical mounting of Patrick's photo is itself conclusive. Then why was it not used or mentioned? There is explanation. When was it made? 1847 has been suggested. Although life was hard, Anne is not surely 27, she appears younger. She is wearing a home-made replica of sister's trendy chenille('caterpillar') capes, the plush new fabric from Brussels. Their summer hats are from the same region, odd to wear them with winter cloaks, the scarves not Haworth-style, the sun is weak and low, the foliage, if not spring, may be winter remnants. Cloaks and ladders suggest this is after Belgium. Elegant Em can be no more than 25 in my view, Charlotte is older, and not too well, according to Anne. The unused/unmentioned photo ended up on the continent. If it is what it says, it had to get there, and Charlotte only went back once, in January 1843. Just like the portrait 'Formerly known as Charlotte Bronte' NPG 1444, the months between Nov. '42 and Jan are the most likely opportunity. You can be sure 'tho, these chaps do have the right photo. Merry Christmas everyone, James Gorin von Grozny

  149. I find this site fascinating and instructive. It makes a real contribution to Bronte studies. It hardly matters that I doubt the intriguing photo really shows the Bronte sisters. To my mind, "Anne" is the litmus test. The Anne of Branwell's Pillar Portrait is recognisably the same person as the Anne depicted three times (I believe) by Charlotte. Anne is the Bronte sister for whose appearance we have the most visual evidence. Those depictions by two different artists do not resemble the "Anne" of the photo. Note in particular the distinctive curve of the eyebrows in all of the confirmed portraits, which is not present in the photo. More interesting to me is the question of whether the famous "Emily" profile portrait cut from the Gun Group is in actuality Anne. Profile portraits such as this one are always difficult to match to other portraits of the same person in full or three-quarter face. In this regard, I would like to ask whether anybody with access to the original in the National Portrait Gallery can confirm the eye colour of the woman in the "Emily" painting? On page 310 of The Art of the Brontes book, the authors write: "The different colours of the girls' eyes are clearly distinguishable: Anne's are blue, Emily's a greenish blue and Charlotte's are brown." The authors go on to suggest that the different colours of the dresses worn by the sisters in the painting were chosen to match the colours of their eyes. Especially given that the Gun Group portrait was the work of the same family artist (Branwell Bronte), if the eyes in the "Emily" portrait cut from the Gun Group are blue she is likely to be Anne, and if greenish blue, Emily. I realise however that the colour of the pigment may have changed with the passage of time. Just as a comment, if it does turn out that the Pillar Portrait is the only confirmed likeness of the genius Emily Bronte - how lucky we are that it is so powerful. I always find it arresting that Emily, alone of the group, looks directly at the viewer.

  150. From the website:

    "The next updates are planned for Saturday 23 January 2016"

  151. The profile (gun group fragment) portrait's eye colour are a dark blue - the hair is much darker than any of the sisters in the pillar group which implies, to my mind, the dark tones of a day-time winter portrait. Charlotte's eyes were olive-hazel, and Emily and Anne together have blue eyes: Anne's a pale grey-blue, so often in the old days described as 'violet' - and Emily's a much darker blue, which Ellen Nussey described as 'liquid'. So one cannot judge via the eye colour alone - be wary! I agree that Anne is the litmus test though; she alone has a real continuity with ALL pictures of her.
    Yours, and Happy Anne's Birthday -
    E xxx

  152. The A.E. Hall profile sketch is very interesting - to my mind it is clearly Charlotte: look at it next to the Richmond portrait.

  153. Thank you for the interesting updates. Is it possible to post clearer images of the photo on the website, are there perhaps some additional details which could provide new leads in research? Can you confirm that the person on the left is actually sitting down? If Charlotte Bronte was so much shorter than her tallest sister Emily, could it be possible that only the figure on the right is sitting? It seems to me that the simplest way to solve the issue of when the image was taken would be to confirm that it was taken at the studio in York, since this closed in 1848. Could you do an appeal in the Yorkshire Evening Press for photos taken at the studio - perhaps in the same garden?

    1. It looks like all the women are seated but at different heights with the lady in the centre placed on the highest seat, her leg almost sideways on.

  154. What do people think about this photograph, labelled on the back as 'Bells'?


  155. One interesting question that the research highlights on the 'Charlotte's Richmond Portrait' page is the glaring difference between Branwell's portrait of Charlotte and George Richmond's. Her turned up nose has become straight, the square face is now oval and the chin is a more refined “v” shape.

    Charlotte states in a letter that she had irregular features but there is nothing irregular in George Richmond's portrait. Mary Taylor mentions that this portrait lacked the "veritable square face and large disproportionate nose."

    Charlotte's publisher George Smith paid for the portrait and after her death said:

    "It may seem strange that the possession of genius did not lift her above the weakness of an excessive anxiety about her personal appearance; but I believe that she would have given all her genius and her fame to have been beautiful."

    Does this statement stem from the tearful sittings with George Richmond?

  156. Illustrated on p. 419 is a hat being worn outdoors. The crown isn't as low nor as rounded as that worn by 'Emily', and the curve of the brim isn't as pronounced, but it's more evidence of hats worn by women in Britain in the 1840s.
    — The Ladies Cabinet of Fashion, Music & Romance (London, 1848); Vol. 9


    Earlier commentators, here and elsewhere, have expressed doubt that the woman at left could be Charlotte, given that they would expect to see a much smaller figure.

    In the photo, all three women are seated, and at different levels, so it isn't possible to accurately judge their heights in relation to one another; and heavy winter cloaks such as those worn by 'Charlotte' and 'Emily' would have been interlined and padded for warmth, adding a bit of breadth to their shoulders.

    Charlotte was, by all accounts, very small and short in stature. But she was self-caricatured as "a broad dumpy thing" in her work of juvenilia, "My Angria and the Angrians"; and was believed, by Mrs. Ratcliffe, to be "the broadest" of the sisters. So Charlotte's shoulders may have been nearly as broad as Emily's, whose coffin was only 16" wide.

    In Charlotte's self-caricature (http://www.brontesisters.co.uk/Charlotte-Bronte.html) she depicted herself in a dress with a skirt falling to about mid-calf, a length which would have permitted a view of her stockings, which agrees with the account just below.

    "In a work which is not likely to penetrate much beyond local circles—Mr. William Scruton's 'Pen and Pencil Sketches of Old Bradford'—there is the following interesting description of the Brontë sisters by one who knew them well: 'I have seen the Brontë sisters many many times,' says the writer. 'They were the most timid and sensitive creatures it was possible to gaze upon. They generally dressed in old-fashioned gowns of faded black silk, whilst their feet were encased in strong, low-fitting shoes, and various-hued stockings. If you met them in Kirkgate, or any other narrow street, on a Thursday or Saturday, when throngs of people were about, they invariably clung to the wall fast hold of each other, as if afraid of being noticed. They were the shyest ladies I ever knew.' This little extract gives, perhaps, as good an idea of the sisters as any biography that has been written."
    — The Literary World (London: James Clarke & Co., 1893); Vol. 47, p. 606

    It is my guess that Charlotte's approximate height (4' 9" to 4' 10") was arrived at by adding the estimated height of her neck and her skull to the full length of the longest dress known to have been worn by her. To this measurement might have been added an inch or more to account for the possibility of a hemline that cleared the floor.

    It can't be known, for certain, if the skirt of that longest dress swept the floor or just cleared it, or if it was ankle-length or approached mid-calf.

    "She had a pretty little foot, of which she was rather vain . . ."
    — John William Robertson Scott, The Story of the Pall Mall Gazette: Of Its First Editor Frederick Greenwood and of Its Founder George Murray Smith (Oxford University Press, 1950), p. 52

    If Charlotte was indeed proud of her small feet, she may have preferred skirts short enough to show off her shoes.

    Given the variables of neck and skull height, and hemline, Charlotte may have been taller than has been supposed, perhaps 4' 11" or even as tall as 5' 1", still a diminutive stature for an adult female.

    In closing, I would encourage those judging the subjects of the photo to keep an open mind with regard to size and height.

  158. I think it more likely that the dress worn by Charlotte having the longest sleeves, together with a pair of her gloves, was used to calculate her arm span, which is an approximate measure of height.

  159. Thank you so much for the comment re: her size - those references are very helpful and really enlightening!
    I'm starting a new project called 'The Bronte Link' - we've an instagram now at http://instagram.com/thebrontelink and hopefully website soon to examine the Bronte appearances + how they lived. Wishing you all well -
    E xx

  160. A theory about the reason and background to the photo.

    I have followed this site for some years now and I have been thinking a lot about this photo. Yes, I believe it is a photo of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë.

    But what could have been the reason for them to visit a photographer and let him take a photo of them ?

    I have an idea / theory. Of course I do not assert the idea to be true, but if it is a photo of them, I might have a theory of the background., and here I introduca You about it.

    Other interested might have had the same or similar ideas, but I have not seen any of them yet on the site.


    The novel “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë was accepted, printed and published by October 1847. It was published under the pseudonym Currer Bell. The publisher was Smith, Elder & Co in London.

    In December 1847 the novels “Wuthering Heights” and “Agnes Grey” were published. They were written by the sisters Emily and Anne Brontë, but were publiced under the pseudonymes Ellis and Acton Bell. The Publisher was Mr Newby.

    Jane Eyre made a great success almost everywhere and even in The United States, and the publisher over there made an agreement with Smith, Elder & Co that he would have the right to publish the following works by Currel Bell.

    In June 1848 Annes book “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” was sufficiently near its completion to be submitted to a person at Mr Newbys. The information of a new book, from what was expected to be written by the same author as Jane Eyre, came to the American publishers knowleage. And very upset he wrote to Smith, Elder & Co in London.

    On morning in the beginning of July 1848 (it must have been Friday the 7:th), a communication was received at the Parsonage from Smith, Elder & Co that disturbed the sisters very much. Smith and Elder was greatly astonished, and not well pleased, to learn that a similar agreement had been entered into with another American publisher house. Annes and Emilys publisher thought that Currer, Ellis and Acton was one and the same person and that he or she also had written the novel Jane Eyre.

    With rapid decision the sisters decided that Charlotte and Anne should start for a journey to Smith and Elders office in London the very same day.

    According to what Charlotte has written in a letter and was Elizabeth Gaskell hade rendered in her biography “Charlotte Brontë” 1857, the two sisters each packed up a change of dress in a small box, which they sent down to Keighley and after early tea they set off to walk thither – no doublt in some exitement; for independently of the cause of their going to London, it was Annés first visit there. A great thunderstorm overtook them on their way to the station that summer evening. They caught the train at Keighley, arrived at Leeds, and were whirled up by the night train to London.

    To be continued ...

  161. Continuation from avove ...

    To make a long history short they visited Mr Smith and his colleague Mr Williams the next morning (Saturday the 8:th of July), rather gloomy and tired. They handed over the letter and told Mr Smith that they were three sisters and that they each had written Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, and that Anne now had written her second novel “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”. It was a greate surprise for Mr Smith and Mr Williams and they took care of their guests and showed them London for some days. On Tuesday morning (The 11:th of July) Charlotte and Anne left London and went home to Haworth.

    My theory is that Mr Smith asked / begged them to take Emyly with them and visit a photographer and take a photo of them all three. I think Mr Smith for sake wanted a photo of them all three together so he could prove others that they were three sisters. Even so as Emily never followed Charlotte and Anne to London and Mr Smith wanted them to show / proove that there was a third sister.

    After some days home in Haworth I think that Charlotte and Anne succeded to persuade Emily to follow them to a photographer in Keighley, Leeds or York. I don´t think that a dagerotypi could be produced while the sisters waited at the photographer. Instead I think that the dagerotypi was sent some hours or days later directly by post to Smith & Elder in London. I guess Mr Smith paid the sister for the cost of the dagerotypi and for the postage.

    So the sisters and their relatives and friends never saw the actual dagerotypi. I assume it come on rest in a desk-box or so at Mr Smiths office and there it was found in the 1850:ths when someone found it and decided to make a copy of it. The original dagerotypi was propably lost in one way or another later and was never seen again. But the copy on photopaper came in some way to France. If my memory is OK one can read about its way from England to France on the site and about a possible copyist.

    The 24:th of September 1848 the sisters brother Branwell Brontë died. At the end of October Charlotte writes in a letter that Emily´s cold and cough are very obstinate and the 21:th of December Emily dies at home.

    Even Anne's health began to decline. On the 5:th of April 1849, she wrote to Ellen Nussey and asked her to accompany her to Scarborough on the east coast. Anne hops that the sea air will improve her health, as recommended by the doctor, and Charlotte finally agree to go to. Anne died in Scarborough the 18:th of May 1849.

    Summing up.
    The reason for the photo is to prove that they are three (3) sisters, and that Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell are pseudonyms for Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë. The photo is taken in Keigly or Leeds during a period from mid July 1848 and mid September the same year. The dagerotypi was directly sent from the photographer to Smith & Elder & Co in London. The sisters never saw it.

    A conflicting observation is that the clothes they weare on the photo is more suited for a more cold and chilly weather than one can expect in Jylu to September, but we do not know about the weather that day.

    Another less likely reason and moment for Charlotte, Emily and Anne to visit a photographer was when they in May 1846 where on their way to publish their poems. May be they wanted to celebrate that with a dagerotypi, but the cost of the printing of the poems was so expensive for them so I do not think they considered more expenses.

    Mr S Wahlstrom in Sweden

  162. Correction:
    The dagerotypi was most propably taken by a photographer in York, NOT Keighley or Leeds, sorry.
    S W

  163. It's amazing how people can believe this photo of perhaps french women from the 1860's are of the Brontes. I wish there was a photo of them! But even the profile claimed to be CB found in the 1980's is now accepted to be of Ellen Nussey .

    Can anyone believe Emily would appear in an artfully posed photo, dressed in the height of fashion? The woman known to run from the knock of the butch boy at the back kitchen and who famously wore clothing 20 years out of date?...not the fashion of 20 years after she passed

    The woman supposedly to be CB looks nothing like the Richmond drawing and she looks far larger than 4 feet 10 inches.

    It is said similar hats such as the middle figure is wearing, appeared in Brussels during their there time ...even so, would the Brontes have spend money they did not have a such a hat? CB had to have money sent to her to come home. They had money after their Aunt Branwell died, but by then Emily was home herself. Frankly I think that hat would make her laugh.

    imo at best,sadly, these are young women from the 1860's posing as the Brontes, or someone wrote " Bronte sisters ? " in French at a later date

    1. The answer to most of these questions are on the website for the photograph: www.brontesisters.co.uk

      The 'photo of Charlotte' was identified as such by the Bronte Museum in the 1980s and this mistake has nothing to do with the photo in question.

      How can we presume to know what Emily would think or how she would react in a given situation. She doesn't have much of a voice in biographies because, like Anne, almost every letter she ever wrote has been destroyed. The fact that Emily argued with Heger, and that she wrote a novel such as Wuthering Heights, suggests that she was a more complicated character than just the timid creature portrayed by some biographers of the past.

      The Richmond Portrait of Charlotte is well documented as a flattered portrait by people who knew her. I think this is now accepted by most historians in Bronte circles.

      The sisters "famously wore clothing 20 years out of date" (hand-me-downs) when they were children, not as adults. They inherited £900 between them which was invested and earning interest. Anne had an income as well. Purchase of a hat or bonnet was well within their means.

      It is not easy to judge the height of the women who are sitting at different levels. Charlotte was short, about 4"10 inches; Anne's height is estimated at 5"2 inches. Emily was considered tall for the time, but was only 5"5 or 5"6 inches so there would only be a difference of 7 or 8 inches between Charlotte and Emily.

      If this is a photo of the Bronte sisters then it would have been taken between 1844 & 1848.

      The women in the photo are unlikely to be 'posing as the Bronte sisters' because outside Haworth the public didn't know what they looked like until 1914. In Branwell's portrait at the NPG Charlotte has a nose which turns up slightly, Emily's is straight and Anne's is Roman. This is replicated in the photograph.

    2. You answered none of my observations. When I say posing, I mean they are artfully arranged....can you really see the Bronte sisters posing like this? Being this fashionably dressed? Wishing does not make it so.

    3. I will address some your non answers

      The sisters "famously wore clothing 20 years out of date" (hand-me-downs) when they were children, not as adults."

      Hand-me-downs? When they were children? Not at all and I did not say the sisters, I said Emily.

      I was referring to Laetitia Wheelright's testimony that's Emily's dresses in Brussels were years out of date. When the Wheelright girls laughed ,Emily said " I wish to be as God made me!" She would hardly be the cutting edge, frilly, fashion plate shown in the photo. She was known to wear dresses well out of date as an adult of 24.

      It is not easy to judge the height of the women who are sitting at different levels.

      By this I believe you mean that she does seem to be taller than 4'10

      They inherited £900 between them which was invested and earning interest. Anne had an income as well. Purchase of a hat or bonnet was well within their means.

      Yes, they inherited £900 , thanks to Aunt's passing. But that was after Emily left Brussels of course and the scene of these hats ...and that money was put into rail road stocks. CB went back alone to Brussels after Aunt's passing ,but as it was she needed to ask for £5 to get home later. She was hardly flush.

      Anne inherited £200 from her Godmother right before her own death. If that money had any baring on her mode of dress in the photo,I suggest the figure said to be Anne would be very much thinner and of course, Emily would be missing from the photo

      Again when I said they were posing, I was not referring to the column painting at all, but to the artful arrangement of the figures. This is a posed art piece of three young women in the 1860's imo.

  164. Please note that it is unlikely that Charlotte undertook a photograph on the advice of George Smith as she wrote to her publishers in 1850 'I grieve to say I possess no portrait of either of my sisters' - had they known about an existing portrait they likely wouldn't have asked.
    Cheers for the input though.
    The claims that are made by Anne above are entirely unfounded.
    Yours as ever
    Em x

    1. I agree with this last comment. Charlotte denied owning a portrait of her sisters in 1850 even though there were several at the Parsonage. If a photo existed then this would have been at the Parsonage as well.

  165. Thank You Emily for Your comment and information.

    My only "but" (maybe nothing to care about) is:

    During a visit in London 1850 the portrait painter George Richmond made a painted portrait of Charlotte. So the topic "painted portrait" was actual at that time. I guess that Mr George Smith at this time also knew that the sisters brother Branwell now was dead, but that he had painted miniature portraits and also had tried to study art / portrait painting in London. So maybe he thought that Charlotte had some painted portraits done by Branwells showing "the three sisters", one by one or together.

    This year Charlotte and Mr Smith also tried to take over the rights / privileges of Emilys and Anns works from Mr Newby (who had published Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey in December 1847) and publish them again, now with a foreword written by Charlotte.

    Maybe Mr Smith did not meaning a portrait in the shape of a dagerotypi (he had one or have had one ?). Instead he might ment a painted portraits done by Branwell.

    Does this sounds too farfetched?

    Your friend of "The Brontës" in Sweden
    Mr S Wahlstrom

    PS. Yes, Juliet Barkes book "The Brontës: A Life in Letters" is translated to swedish. Some years ago I bought eight copys of that book and gave - all but one - to friends and relatives here in Sweden. And Yes, I´ve been to Haworth too. My wife too, forty years ago ;-)
    So we have much to discuss during our meals ;-)

    1. Another theory / treoretic background to the photo:

      In my reflections of the photo and what could have been the reason / cause for them to visit a photographer I have one more idea of the background to the photo. Let me present it for You on this blogsite.

      The 1:th of January 1844 Charlotte arrived home to Haworth from her second visit to Brussel, a visit that lasted for one year and concisted of studies for Mr Heger.

      It is a fact that Charlotte was enamored in her teacher Mr Heger in Brussel and we know that she wrote letters to him after returning home. One of them is dated the 24:th of July 1844 and in it she presents her plans to start a school (Board and Education) for Young Ladies at the Parsonage in Haworth. I guess she also asked for advices. Mr Heger tried to suppress her love for him and her writing of letters to him. As far as I know she tried to hide her affections for Mr Heger at home in Haworth. But in a letter to him the 8:th of January 1845, she tells him how much he occupies her mind. She tells him that she are so afraid of losing him as her friend. He “saw” her when she was in Brussel and ´she cling to that the same way that she clings to life´. She must have got the sence that he saw her ability and personality and her as a free and living human / woman in the same way that Mr Rochester saw Jane Eyre. Despite she was "poor obscure, plain and little".

      Mr Hegers rejections made her depressed. It seems that her depressed mood subsided during the autumn 1845 when the sisters plans to write and put together their individual poems to a collection / book of poems.

      To be continued ...

    2. ...

      Is it possibly ??? that Charlotte about November 1844 to Januari 1845 (winter season 1844 - 1845) managed to persuade her sisters to visit a photographer and that she - more or less secretly – sent the dagerotypi to Mr Heger ??? (Emily had studied for him in Brussels 1842.) May be Charlotte thought that with her sisters also on the photo, Mr Heger AND his jealousy wife more easily would accept this kind of gift and greeting. Emily (and Anne) was a kind of alibi that made it possibly to remind Mr Heger of Charlotte. He could now see what a determind and intelectual person she was and what he was missing.

      And sent to Brussel the dagerotypi was then on the European continent not far from France where the photocopy now actually, much later was found.

      Juliet Barker writes in “The Brontës: A Life in Letters” (swedish edition page 143) that Charlotte kept her love emotions for Mr Heger for herself and partly I think that is correct, but I do not think she was able to prevent the other members of the family to notice that she – ´now and then and for educational reasons and to get advises´ - had a correspondence with Mr Heger. (Letters coming from Belgium). Some years earlier – when Charlotte and Emily was in Brussel - Mr Heger and Patric Brontë changed some letters, so partly it ought to be possible for Charlotte to admit that she ´also´had a correspondence with Mr Heger.

      Can it have been an idea from Charlotte to send Mr Heger a Christmas gift, in the shape of a dagerotypi of the sisters. Or just a greeting. Birthday greeting or so??? To wake him up that she existed.

      Or can Charlotte have sent Mr Heger one example of her novel Jane Eyre (may be even Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey) and enclosed the dagerotypi as a personal gift and greeting. Now they were all authors !

      Mr Heger can not have been unaware of Charlottes success as a auther to the novel Jane Eyre. So if he got the dagerotypi he propably must have saved it and may be also later made a photographic copy of it. For his children??? (´I once hade that famous author as my student, he said.´)

      Important reflection: Charlottes expression, posture, attitude, look and eyes on the photho has – in my opinion – very much an attitude of “Do You see me now, Mr Heger?” Can You see me now, Mr Heger? “Here I am, Mr Heger! “I have not forgotten You, Mr Heger.” She “opens up” herself very consciously and watch the viewer of the dagerotypi very intensively. And Emily and Anne are just staff bearing.

      Mr S Wahlstrom

    3. "I am an independent woman now", Mr Rochester / Heger

      (Can You see that now?)

  166. QUOTING WEBSITE on 30 June:

    "More information will be published over the next 18 months.

    A summary will be added by early 2017 at the latest.

    At least two more pages along with a revised summary will be added before the end of 2017.

    These dates may be brought forward if time permits."

  167. People, people, you all seem as though you have some knowledge of the Bronte Sisters so why are you all missing glaring problems with this image? The sisters have been described down the years by many people and I think we can agree that all have stopped short by simply saying they weren’t very pleasent on the eye. When looking at this photograph I would not say that applies, especially to Anne who in that photograph I would say looks far from not very pleasing to the eye, in fact, looks very pretty. Also, in the image Charlotte has three moles, now of all the descriptions I have read I have never seen mention of Charlotte having moles. Her cheek bones, look at them, you don’t think people would have mentioned cheek bones like these. Come on, these and the moles would have been distinguishing features surely mentioned by people who knew her and also seen in portraits of her. To me these thing said no, end of, within minutes.

    1. The sisters have been described down the years by many historians but there are very few descriptions by people who met them and of these none are detailed.

      The moles look like marks on the surface of the photo because more of them can be seen in the background. It mentions somewhere that there are hundreds of marks on the original photo, most were digitally removed to display it on the internet but some still remain.

  168. QUOTING WEBSITE on 30 June:

    "More information will be published over the next 18 months.

    A summary will be added by early 2017 at the latest.

    At least two more pages along with a revised summary will be added before the end of 2017.

    These dates may be brought forward if time permits."

  169. The research has established that "a very similar hat, and variations of it, was worn in mainland Europe in the 1840s, whilst Charlotte & Emily were in Belgium".

    I add to it an example that dates to 1848, a painting by Louis Charles Porion.

    The hat worn by Isabel II may or may not have been fashioned of straw. It little matters, for milliners working with a particular style were free to interpret it in felt for fall and winter, in straw for the warmer months, and in satin for the opera.

  170. I am so sure it is them, I have been interested in the Brontes for as long as I can remember and living in Hebden Bridge, a 15 minute drive from Haworth itself across the moorlands, I always feel an affinity with them, especially Emily.
    I have studied this photo alot and with the very interesting research on the website, have concluded it cannot be anyone else.

    The photo is very similar to the daguerreotype of Haworth Parsonage, also cut out of glass.
    The eyes of Charlotte are stunning and this was also seen to be the case by all that knew her.
    I also feel that the Charlotte in the photo and the Charlotte in many portraits look very similar, especially around the nose and mouth.
    Emily is tall and broad, she was often described as being masculine.
    Emily has her arm around Anne - these two were always close, even in adulthood.
    Anne looks sweet, pretty and 'different in appearance from the others' you can also tell, as some have noted, that she has her mouth slightly open, a sign of her asthma.
    Charlotte and Emily had recently been to Brussels and their hats/cloaks are big indicators of this.

    Keep up the good work and I cant wait for a summary in 2017!

  171. I am amazed, how far the accounts about Bronte sisters and this likeness seem to fit together. It's like scattered puzzles that can form only one picture - the truth. Maybe I have found another piece of this puzzles - are you familiar with the Anne Bronte blog? I have no permission to quote it, but I was stroke with a passage, description of Caroline Helstone from "Shirley", based on Anne Bronte:

    "As if further proof was needed that Charlotte has painted Anne’s dying days, there is one very telling clue. In the previous blog, I showed how Caroline’s physical description very closely matches that of Anne, but for one point: on three occasions she is mentioned as having brown eyes, when we know that Anne was the only Brontë child to have blue eyes. See how Charlotte, with Anne’s vision and suffering so clearly etched in her imagination as she writes, describes Caroline now:

    “Papa, my darling, gave you your blue eyes and soft brown hair; he gave you the oval of your face and the regularity of your lineaments.”

    Whole text: http://www.annebronte.org/2015/09/

    In the photo "Anne" has obviously a face so similar to Patrick Bronte.

    Keep up the good work! D.

  172. Is there any information on the portrait "Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855)" Accession number P30 - gift from Sir James Roberts, 1934 owned by the Brontë Parsonage Museum and displayed on artuk.org ???


  173. Interesting new page 'dating the photo' added and several other pages updated September 18th 2016.

  174. Can the daguerreoty of the sisters have been a gift to Mary Taylor when she emigrated to New Zealand in Mars 1845?

    May be Mary had asked them to give her something that would remind her of her dearest friends. The photo-tecnic was new and how amasing to bring such a "memory" of her friends close at hand when she emigrated.
    And if the straw hats was a gift from Mary Taylor (bought in Germany) this explains why these 3 hats are on the photo.

    And when Mary arrived back from New Zealand many years later she brought the gaguerrotypi with her. And in some way someone made a copy of it and that is the photo we see today. Mary could even have made a copy of the daguerrotypi in New Zealand and sent the copy to a friend or so in France or Great Brirain?

    This is in line with the date of the photo between 18 January 1845 and June 1845, in line with the existens of the straw hats and explains why there were no photo of them in Great Britain during the period between Mars 1845 and the year when Mary Taylor arrived back to England? (Did she, what year.)

    Svante Wahlstrom

  175. According to Wikipedia, Mary Taylor returned to Yorkshire from New Zealand in 1860 and died in 1893. She destroyed the letters she received from Charlotte and so if the photograph did belong to her, she may have kept its existence a secret.

  176. The picture of Emily or Anne Bronte at London's National Portrait Gallery. How did historians manage to miss all this evidence and why is it that the only evidence they missed favors identification of the portrait as Anne?

  177. New page added to website - The Lost Portrait of Emily Bronte.

  178. Elizabeth Gaskell writing 1856: “Mr Stewart is a first rate amateur photographer; gone out to Iceland by Danish Government’s request to take boiling springs and those sort of things ..."

    There is a John Stewart returning from Iceland in Caledonian Mercury of Friday 20th July 1855.

    EDINBURGH ----THE THOR.-This Danish man-of-war steamer returned to the Roads on Tuesday night after a month's cruise to Iceland and the Faro Islands. The passsengers on board of her, from this, were Messrs Alexander and Robert Allan, Mr Robert Chambers, Mr John Stewart, Mr R. M. Smith, and Mr Laurie - and we understand they have had a highly agreeable and successful trip. The Thor sailed for Copenhagen this forenoon.

    Iceland was a part of the Kingdom of Denmark from 1814 to 1918 and "The Thor" was a screw corvette built for the Danish Navy. Robert Allen read a paper "Geysers in Iceland" at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Glasgow, September 1855.

  179. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  180. The Profile Portrait - Emily or Anne

    William Davies' remarks on the 'Gun-Group' portrait added to page.