Archive for May 4, 2009

Will the real Charlotte Bronte PLEASE stand up!

Posted in BRONTE BITES, YORK BREAK with tags , , , on May 4, 2009 by echostains

There have not been many portraits of the famous writer Charlotte Bronte, so it’s a bit of a tall order to establish what she really looked like.  One person who at least had a bit of an idea having lived with her, was her brother Branwell.  He painted quite a few portraits of people he knew.  How objective was he though about his own sisters?  I do not think he would be flattering, and  I get the feeling that he would try to truthfully portray them, warts and all.  He was particularly scathing about his own portrait which he couldn’t get right – he just  painted his own face  out!

bronte_sisters by-branwell-bronte-c1834

bronte_sisters by-branwell-bronte-c1834

 

The most flattering one is the George Richmond portrait. This is the one that most people associate with Charlotte.  It has been said that Richmond greatly flattered Charlotte in this portrait.

charlotte-bronte-by-george-richmoond-18503.jpg NPG 1452, Charlotte BrontÎ (Mrs A.B. Nicholls)

 

 

 

 

charlotte-bronte-by-george-richmoond-18503.jpg NPG 1452, Charlotte BrontÎ (Mrs A.B. Nicholls)

And here’s another one purported to be of  Charlotte…though I can’t see it  myself.  There’s an article about it here.  Personally, I think that this lady looks more like Charlotte’s biographer Elizabeth Gaskell.

charlotte-talked-about-sitting-for-a-portrait-whilst-in-brussels

charlotte-talked-about-sitting-for-a-portrait-whilst-in-brussels

 

 

elizabeth-gaskell early champion and biographer

elizabeth-gaskell early champion and biographer

 

I rather like this one by J H Thompson.  Again, I get the impression that this glamorises Charlotte.  Nonetheless, there is a homeliness also within this portrayal that persuades me that the photo below and the painting are of the same person.  Now, whether that person is Charlotte, is another matter.

J H Thompson portrait

J H Thompson portrait

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

This is the photograph purported to be Charlotte Bronte.

 
 
Could this really be Charlotte?  I'd like to think so

Could this really be Charlotte? I'd like to think so

 
 

We will never know what she really looked like, which is a shame.  All we have to go on is this description by Charlotte’s friend and publisher George Smith: –

I must confess that my first impression of Charlotte Bronte’s personal appearance was that it was interesting rather than attractive.  She was very small, and had a quaint old fashioned look.  Her head seemed to large for her body.  She had fine eyes, but her face was marred by the shape of the mouth and by the complexion.  There was but little feminine charm about her….’

How very charming of him eh!  And him such an oil painting himself….. Charlotte did receive four proposals of marriage in her life time though, so four men at least disagreed with Smith!

george smith no gentleman

george smith no gentleman

 More about the Haworth journey here

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