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!
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.
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.
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.
This is the photograph purported to be Charlotte Bronte.
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!