Did the REAL Charlotte Bronte Just Stand up?

The Bronte sisters by Branwell
The Bronte sisters by Branwell

This is a follow up to my post called ‘Will the Real Charlotte Bronte Please Stand up?  This was written a while ago.  I tried to establish what Charlotte Bronte really looked like (and didn’t get anywhere lol!)  This subject still fascinates me though, so I was intrigued to read recently that James Gorin Von Grosny from Devon had bought a painting whom he believes are the Bronte sisters, painted by Edwin Lanseer.  The connection with Lanseer and the Bronte’s comes about through Ellen Nussey’s brother being a friend of his.
could this be a fresh portrait of the Bronte sisters?
could this be a fresh portrait of the Bronte sisters?


Now, before you dismiss this claim as outlandish and unlikely, Mr Von Grosny puts up a formidable arguement  defending his claim and a lively debate is going  on the Bronte blog HERE.  It makes fascinating reading and  Mr Von Grosny addresses many issues regarding the work.  It is obvious that he has done a lot of research into the Bronte’s and has a genuine interest in them.


closer up
closer up


Even the way that the owner aquired this portrait is unusual in itself (read it HERE).  The whole story is intriguing and I am keeping a very open mind.  After all, we have so many portraits, each differing of Charlotte: so many conflicting descriptions of her appearence.  For example, even the samples of her hair differ.  I was at the Bronte Parsonage yesterday and saw three different examples, purported to be Charlottes hair.  There was a necklace made of fair hair, a mourning card with red blonde hair and a very dark lock of hair which is confusing. So why SHOULDN’T this portrait be of the Bronte’s? We don’t know for a fact it isn’t so far.


the knee sketch
the knee sketch



The reverse of the painting contains a sketch of a knee.  Mr Von Grosny asserts that this ties in with a painting that Charlotte did of a shepherdess with the same scar below the knee.  It is thought to be a self portrait.  There is so much to the story of this painting – the suspense is killing me lol!  But just because I WANT it to be the Bronte’s, won’t make it so, but evidence will.  I can assure you that Mr Von Grosny is busy collecting it!  This portrait has a tale to tell I feel, and I want to hear it!

Constructive comments are invited

Please note:  this debate has been transferred onto Bookstains where hopefully it will continue and get more views

54 thoughts on “Did the REAL Charlotte Bronte Just Stand up?

  1. You might be pleased to know the mythical English Gentleman survives in the Nor-East- in the form of Hal Redver-Jones, the elusive example runs a beat called the Whitby Jet Heritage Centre.
    I sent Hal the Bronte Museum description of J75.2 ‘Bangle, black, jet, with ‘Tied Bow’ attachment.’ and a high-res image of the black bangle with ‘Tied Bow’ so proudly worn by Ann in the fresh portrait. (Ann Dinsdale has said the museum artefact is ‘similar but slightly chunkier’.)
    No-one realised, not me either, how rare it was, and that jet bangles of any sort or style were not made at all before c. 1838!
    This is what Hal said:
    ‘I have never come across a design type like this in all my years of restoration.’
    The odds of three other similar- nay; identical looking sisters of similar ages aspiring to write, making similar plaited-hair/amethyst and identical jet bead bracelets, sitting on a similar chair in similar dresses of favourite colours- AND be the only other group of three to invent, design or recieve as a present one of the first jet bangles made, decorated with identical, not specially beautiful, hand-made ‘Tied Bow’ attachment- are beyond the hopes of even the most determined pessimist- if pessimism can have hope?
    The maker has taken breathtaking care to depict all the information presented him at Haworth in 1838. We know therefore some passion connected he and Charlotte (she also expresses affection and admiration for him, determination and ‘triumph’ for herself- ‘I am a rising character’.) the nude verso shows no suggestion of ‘lifted’ clothing or hosiary which implies, rather than just show the scar below her knee, she may have posed naked.
    Why is there no mention or record of this liasion? It seems there was heat and intimacy, someone got cold feet- lover’s remorse- someone got dumped? To imagine Charlotte with a huge crush on a famous painter and be subsequently jilted is a horrifying idea for many fans- even me, poor thing, and not the sort of affair one wants to be reminded of. I can imagine how she must have hoped and loved him- and grieved for the beautiful portrait that should have been hers.
    I’m certain the picture was never delivered. It spent many years folded ‘recto out’, the nude verso kept from sight, and was not framed until late 1860’s- at the beginning of their fame, when the maker was free from scandal and ‘complications’. There is a tenuous ‘source’ link between this portrait and the Duchess of Bedford’s daughters, the youngest, Rachel was scandalously reputed to be the artist’s own. It possible Landseer remembered the picture, perhaps in conversation with his daughter and elder sisters years later, and gave it to her then. Again, the informal and personal nature of transaction eludes record.
    However, if you want to know exactly what they looked like, here they really are! Best wishes Bronteos, James

    1. Hi James Good to hear from you and with such an interesting update on this story! It looks like the trail is far from cold and your enquiries and research are beginning to pay off. The bangle connection is fascinating, I too would love to know where it came from! Was it commisioned? if so, there must be a record of it (but where?) Please continue to update us if you uncover any other clues. Sooner or later Charlotte MUST stand up!

  2. The portraits of these three women were not painted in 1838. The clothing on the women dates them to the late 1840s or early 1850s.

  3. Hi Sue, I don’t know if they were painted in 1838 or not, Mr Van Grosny owns the painting and he’s still researching it. The clothing, I’m no expert on dating clothes so I don’t know which era they’re from. Sorry I can’t help. Thanks for visiting Sue!

  4. Hi there Sue.

    It is great to have your interest, and if you are right then these 18-22 y/o girls aren’t the Brontes, I would be fascinated to know how you date the dresses 1850. Please do let me know on what basis you can make such challenging statement.

    You might be interested to know, according to first hand female recollection the girls from teens wore ‘long sleeved, high-necked dresses – wi pleats an tibbets to the waist till they were ert growed up’.

    The picture has been dated 1835-40 by leading 19th. c expert Nigel Kirk and slightly later 1840-45 by world renowned art historian Richard Ormond, which agrees with my training at London College of Fashion when I studied the history of frocks. More conclusively Sue, the portrait bears date 1838.

    I hope you can look again with at least the certainty that whoever the subjects are, (in front of a bare wall which is ‘not papered, but stained in a pretty dove-coloured tint’.) they were born circa 1816, 1818 & 1820-?. My book won’t try to persuade you either way, it’s up to you hen. Best wishes, James

  5. Hi James, I personally think it is a portrait of the brontes. my question though is how you can tell which is which between charlotte and Emily. Thanks.

  6. Eyo John.

    A choir-boy at Haworth church eloquently remembers Emily; ‘She was tall, had droppy eye-lids, a compressed mouth and protruding front tooth.’

    The diminuitive figure in centre seems to be in command, (‘I am a rising character’?). although she shows no teeth (Charlotte had some ‘black and missing’?), her long, shallow nose and closed lips are offset, in the same leftwards inclination Charlotte was famed for. And them eyes do blaze. Ellen Nussey said Charlotte had ‘tiny hands, with very pointed fingers’, unlike long-legged ‘Emily’s’.
    I recently noticed that their heads all measure very nearly the same height on the paper, suggesting that ‘Emily’, being closest, had the smallest (heart-shaped) head, ‘Ann’s (oval head) slightly larger, the largest (oblong head) by far the little person in the middle! How clever that maker, at first glance their anatomies look similar and unexceptional.
    Do hope those observations help your enjoyment.
    Best wishes, James

  7. I meant to mention for John:

    The tall girl in green, if you close her lips and compare her to Branwell’s Emily, they mirror, so does the short girl and Charlotte, if you turn her head, adjust the light and she smiles.

    Best wishes, James

  8. Thanks James, you are probably right; if it were the brontes. Its just that emily seems to have gone from the prettiest to probably the least attractive of the three.

  9. Hi John,

    From the prettiest to the least- or reverse. This version is very much in Charlotte’s favour, while Branwell seemed to favour Em.

    I’ve had some stomping developments recently and will bring you up to date shortly. Best wishes, James.

  10. Think I’ve mentioned on your Jimmy quiz page finding a third scar, on Charlotte’s 1834 lower rt leg, the suitable posture borrowed from Landseer’s ‘Hours of Innocence’.
    After 2 years scanning found an inscription, feint pencil, two groups of text in 2 different hands; first block starts with ‘L’ then undecipherable then possibly an ‘n’ and a ‘d’ possible double vowel and an ‘r’. 1838. Then close in a different hand what looks like; ‘This is of’ then feint large lettering, above and below it three wandering rows of miniscule writing.

    Looking for an example of ‘Th’ or ‘This’ ideally, I found the pencil heading on Charlotte’s 1837 version of poem ‘The Letter’. I had read the printed version before and found it bumpy when crockery and a picture are suddenly introduced- seemed out of context. Couldn’t find any reference to a sloping picture or fixed gaze in the original. The 6 verses have been re-coupled into 4, three new verses have been added.
    Look forward to what you think. Best wishes. James

  11. New writing eh – this gets better and better! There’s certainly a mystery about this picture – lets hope this writing can go towards unlocking it. I’d love to know what this writing says, perhaps you can have it x rayed? I had a census form one that I couldn’t decipher, so I took it into photoshop and ‘posturised it’ (made the writing negative on black paper), think it was posturise….. Still couldnt decipher this name but it did make the letters a bit clearer. Hope this helps. When is the book coming out James?

  12. Not deciphered who ‘This is of’ yet but this might curl your toes:

    ‘The Letter’

    How fast her fingers move !
    How eagerly her youthful brow
    Is bent in thought above !
    Her long curls, drooping, shade the light,
    She puts them quick aside,
    Nor knows, that band of crystals bright,
    Her hasty touch untied.
    It slips adown her silken dress,
    Falls glittering at her feet;
    Unmarked it falls, for she no less
    Pursues her labour sweet.

    The very loveliest hour that shines,
    Is in that deep blue sky;
    The golden sun of June declines,
    It has not caught her eye.
    The cheerful lawn, and unclosed gate,
    The white road, far away,
    In vain for her light footsteps wait,
    She comes not forth to-day.
    There is an open door of glass
    Close by that lady’s chair,
    From thence, to slopes of mossy grass,
    Descends a marble stair.

    Tall plants of bright and spicy bloom
    Around the threshold grow;
    Their leaves and blossoms shade the room,
    From that sun’s deepening glow.
    Why does she not a moment glance
    Between the clustering flowers,
    And mark in heaven the radiant dance
    Of evening’s rosy hours ?
    O look again ! Still fixed her eye,
    Unsmiling, earnest, still,
    And fast her pen and fingers fly,
    Urged by her eager will.

    Her soul is in th’ absorbing task;
    To whom, then, doth she write ?
    Nay, watch her still more closely, ask
    Her own eyes’ serious light;
    Where do they turn, as now her pen
    Hangs o’er th’ unfinished line ?
    Whence fell the tearful gleam that then
    Did in their dark spheres shine ?
    The summer-parlour looks so dark,
    When from that sky you turn,
    And from th’ expanse of that green park,
    You scarce may aught discern.

    Yet o’er the piles of porcelain rare,
    O’er flower-stand, couch, and vase,
    Sloped, as if leaning on the air,
    One picture meets the gaze.
    ‘Tis there she turns; you may not see
    Distinct, what form defines
    The clouded mass of mystery
    Yon broad gold frame confines.
    But look again; inured to shade
    Your eyes now faintly trace
    A stalwart form, a massive head,
    A firm, determined face.

    Black Spanish locks, a sunburnt cheek,
    A brow high, broad, and white,
    Where every furrow seems to speak
    Of mind and moral might.
    Is that her god ? I cannot tell;
    Her eye a moment met
    Th’ impending picture, then it fell
    Darkened and dimmed and wet.
    A moment more, her task is done,
    And sealed the letter lies;
    And now, towards the setting sun
    She turns her tearful eyes.

    Those tears flow over, wonder not,
    For by the inscription, see
    In what a strange and distant spot
    Her heart of hearts must be !
    Three seas and many a league of land
    That letter must pass o’er,
    E’er read by him to whose loved hand
    ‘Tis sent from England’s shore.
    Remote colonial wilds detain
    Her husband, loved though stern;
    She, ‘mid that smiling English scene,
    Weeps for his wished return.

    The last verse, introducing the idea of estranged husband, is merely to appease the male reader, the passion is in verses 5 & 6! I was sure she would lament ‘th’impending picture’ in some way, if it were of her.

    Best wishes, James

  13. Well, It’s a lovely poem – whoever wrote it James. I wonder who she is dreaming of? who the sunburnt cheek belongs to, and Spanish locks belong to? and who the picture in the frame is of? ….. interesting. Thanks James!

  14. You’re slacking! We know who wrote it, don’t we? Why else would it matter who’s is the sunburnt cheek? ‘White’ brow and tan suggests someone who works outside, and wears a hat, like some artists.
    My favourite artist in most of his portraits has really dark hands and cheeks and a broad, white forehead. He also has the opposite of ‘Black Spanish Curls’ which sounds a bit idealistic and manufactured to me, as if the author is hiding the true identity of her love. ‘Golden curling locks’, with the other clues, would be ‘going public’.
    Who th’impending picture in broad gold frame is ‘of’?
    I think it’s clear the the picture ‘belongs’ to, or was intended for, the author? ‘One picture meets the gaze.’ Whover is in the picture, gazes at the maker, ‘Her God?’, her eye a moment met. Tis there, she tells us, her heart goes. Who are her tears for? Wonder not, for by the inscription see.
    It is worth reading the poem and knowing what to expect from the inscription, rather than waiting for it’s deciphering which may never happen satisfactorily.
    I am checking out Xray options as you suggest. Why do you think the 3 verses were added and what are they talking about?
    The last verse is the biggest hotch-potch. The strange and distant spot her heart must be is not geographically remote, but socially.
    I will jot out a verse by verse interpretation if you feel it might be useful, I like poetry, ISP nominee ‘Poet of the year’ 2007, of course I am predudiced and looking for what I want to see, but no matter if it’s fact.
    Best wishes, James

  15. I’m not at all familiar with the poems of the Bronte’s James. I honestly didn’t know the author. Please do not feel that you have to be defensive with me, I am neither attacking or ridiculing, its not my style. This is just a blog where I try to write about things I do know about in my humble way.

  16. Apologies for being defensive, I did smart (and wince) not because you didn’t know who was lamenting a lost picture, but because I felt you implied I didn’t know either (rendering the ‘hot’ reference worthless), or it not important enough to enquire, while I am extremely excited by the ammendments. I did refer to Charlotte’s ‘The Letter’ on 27th last, before retrieving it for perusal.
    Your forum has provided a welcome platform to share this extraordinary discovery and all the threads of information it unwinds, your reception of the presumtious idea has been positive and enquiring, inspiring and reassuring for me, and I thank you.
    I am sure it would please you to know for sure it iS a fresh picture, every corner and layer crammed with fact and history known and new. There is more yet to do, but I’m sure soon I will have listed enough ‘coincidences’ (and a few facts) for the girls to get a fair hearing.
    Very best wishes, James

  17. Crossed wires it seems James. All is a bit clearer now 🙂 I am really keeping my fingers crossed that this picture IS the Bronte sisters. I know how much this would mean to not only you but to generations of people who love these writers. You do have quite a battle on your hands, but I have always kept an open mind about the picture. You have provided more reasons why it SHOULD be than others have provided that its defintely NOT. Plus you have done painstaking research on the picture, leaving no stone unturned in your persuit of this other portrait of the sisters. The mystery of this picture is both frustratingly tantalising and intriguing, and I suspect they have yet more secrets to reveal! 🙂
    Kind regards

  18. Hi
    I dont think its a from life group potraite of the sisters for all the reasons everyone mentions in the Bronte Blog but esp the clothing ,however i tried to think of anyway at all everyone could be right ,,maybe its mourning image commissioned by Charlotte or someone else that used a life sitting of Charlotte and sketched the other girls from Charlotte or Branwells sketches of the other sisters ,it explains the iconography thats otherwise troublesome, the clothing and a lot of other issues such as percieved simialties between paintings and the jewelery etc .It also explains why Branwell would not be in the group ,perhaps she got the idea after showing Mrs Gaskel the portraite ,,which removes another stumbling block , Charlotte drew her sisters healthy happy lives in Shirley ,why not get a well known portraite painter to do the same ,,though the flaw in my scenerio is that as far as I know theres no mention of it in Bronte archives or by anyone who knew the Brontes and I cant quite convince myself ,,

  19. This painting has drawn a lot of controversy Lyn 🙂 I don’t know if it is or isn’t BUT I do think it would be marvellous if it was! It is a mystery that the owner is still trying to get to the bottom of.

  20. I would be lovely to have another painting of all the sisters ,,Or wouldnt it be lovely to have a wedding image of Charlotte and Arthur Bell Nichols ,,I do wonder if there isnt one lurking in Ireland somewhere.We where talking about Brotne possesions as a friend used to own an ex household item of theirs ,,I said I thought there were loads of their old household goods lying around in houses around here ,cups ,irons ,pans, , etc as the odds and ends of things sold when they moved from Thornton would not have been very important at the time and the basic things bought at the Bronte household effects sale before Bell Nichols went to Irland would probably not have been thought much off ,,even though Charlttoe was famouse no ones likely to make much from exhibiting the Brontes flat iron , poker or milk pan ,,I bet they have passed through local Antique and junk shops unknown or adorn local pubs ,cafes and Inns ,,maybe even Haworth old hall,,,

  21. I bet they have! And if they have, I may have come into indirect contact with them 🙂 I’ve stayed quite a few times at Haworth Old Hall now – it’s a beautiful place full of atmosphere and ghosts. One time we stopped, a bat flew into our room at night! I wonder who that was 🙂

  22. I really like your theory about the portrait Lyn Marie! I am an art historian and if I had this picture in my possession, I would consult a team of specialists to look at it very carefully: faces, clothes, materials, jewellery, technique. I do not know if this picture is being seriously investigated right now… But whatever it is a true portrait of the Brontës or not, it is for me a fine illustration of what I imagine about the Brontës, that’s why I chose it for the header of my blog 😉

  23. It is being investigated by its owner Mr James Grozny whose posts on this subject have been numerous Mademoiselle. Glad to see you’ve used this enigmatic image as a header for your post 🙂

  24. Hi Echostains! I know Mr. Grozny conducts extensive research to support his thesis Bronte-Landseer (a book would also be in preparation about his research), but what I meant was “does he request different specialists to assist him in his investigation? “. Mr. Grozny sent me two messages (in English) specifying certain points of his investigation that I published in the comments section of my last two articles on the subject, if you are interested. To me, what still tickles me in this picture is that faces seem to be made with a very different technical style of the clothing (which seem to date from 1845 to 1850 rather than 1838) … I have the impression that two artists, at different times, worked on this picture. Also, their is no known document of the Brontes mentionning such a portrait. Mystery… 😉

  25. It is indeed a mystery regarding the faces – and this a new theory about two artists working on the picture intermittently to me. But Mr Grozny posseses much more knowledge on this matter than I do both on the picture and in his knowledge of the cotumes worn, so I’m afraid I cannot add anything else on the subject of the picture 🙂 Thanks for your comments though mademoiselle 🙂

  26. Hi again mademoissellebronte. Crikes, 2 artists- because you perceive the frocks are later- so many girls say that- but I didn’t go Army acadamy- I went to London College of fashion and learned all about (music) smocks and frocks and what they’re made of and why and how etc., my favoutite topic to talk about, yesteday I got a bit carried away answering Lyn Marie on same subject on simultaneous/parallel site; ‘Will the real Charlotte please stand up’- I’ll attempt to paste it if that’s ok with our indispensible host. Am writing meantime in reply to your rousing last post. Best wishes, James

    From Echostains ‘Will the real Charlotte’ 27th Feb:
    You are right Lyn Marie, there must be an explanation for these eerie likenesses, in possession of surviving Bronte artefacts and even assuming their favourite choice of colours.
    Most confounding, the composition and Charlotte’s triumphant, yet adoring blaze blatently presumes to ‘predict’ the future, with an intensely composed and solemn literary pledge (aided, perhaps encouraged, by a mischievous, convention-crashing artist).
    The hottest point of picture is that it was made in 1838- 8 years preceding ‘Bells’ and ‘Poems’. (it is twice dated, also dated twice by specialists Nigel Kirk and Richard Ormond- findings corroborated at NPG.)
    ‘Tippet’s (and sometimes ‘tibbets’) were a fashion of convenience to the evolving ‘middling’ class, superceding the stiff, impractical ruffs and cuffs of 17th c and extravagant lace, cravats and satin brocades of the 18th.
    The dresses worn in the picture would be made by the girls, simply constructed with lot’s of fabric and deep folds & gathers- avoiding long exposed seams and darts, 12 years until Isaac M. Singer. His revoloutionary machine liberated home (and later industrial) garment creativity.
    All that heavy material in the hand-made frocks prior to Singer required time and care to launder, so the ladies developed the idea of detachable lace trimmings on cuffs, neck & ‘fly’ (the front join buttoned, tied or pinned). When the frills got frumpy and picked up dust and grim, you un-picked and detached them an popped em in the machine-. So that’s what tibbets (or tippets) be, perhaps old word for protrusions or ‘sticky-out-bits’.
    The ‘pleated’ style of dressmaking vanished completely as soon as the smooth forms achievable with machine were exhibited among ‘society’.
    About this time elastic…. la la. Hope you agree the dresses are pre-singer.
    Best wishes, James.

  27. Hi James ,
    I have taken all these comments on board and want to do them justice but I will do a post on my blog in a few weeks if thats ok and you dont mind me useing the portaite on my blog as part of my Bronte costume post.

  28. Hi Lyn Marie, of course I don’t mind, I’m sure it will be a fascinating site- and you a dressmaker too- you must share some of those skills too if you can.
    Best wishes, James

  29. Hi
    I thought I should mention I did a post on my flickr profil and I have just posted on my blog asking costumers what they thought about the dresses of the girls in the painting as I know several regualry check my blog posts .I wanted the painting to stand alone without anyone knowing who it representated so I labeled the painting mystery girls Its not a judgment on the genuiness of the portrait.I thought it would be a different approach .Interestingly I has someone ask me outright if it was the Brontes,,
    I also posted some original dresses and fashion plates for anyone wanting to compare them .I hope it will be a fair way to let everyone have a say on date regardless of the more complex reasons for the likeness being the Brontes.I will post again a few weeks later with the portraite labeled as potential Brontes portraite .

    1. This is really great Lyn Marie. I believe that this objective method allows to get closer to the truth. For my part, I still believe that the portrait seems to have been made ​​later than 1838 because of clothing and accessories, but I’m new to this area. I can not wait to see what the experts will say!

  30. This sounds great Lyn! Will have a look now. Datewise – I’m pretty hopeless where costume is concerned, but it sounds a great idea anyway 🙂 Incidently, have you ever used the WordPress Poll feature to hold polls? It’s great fun – I have one coming up (with a great romantic air to it….:-D)

  31. Great fun Lyn Marie, I love it! An romance Echo? At mo can think of none more dreamed and tragic than Charlotte and the boy from Foley St., her childhood hero. I have empathy with Branwell tho, and intrigued by Em, an gooness knows where Anne’s dreams came from, so look forward to your romantic poll- hope it’s about Charlotte tho.
    I wonder why and what the ‘curate’ destroyed (am in process of finding (one part) out- nearly there!)
    Best wishes, James

    1. Well I did have an idea for a Bronte Poll last year which I might put on soon, but the romantic one wasn’t about the Bronte’s at all 🙂 Charlotte in particular had her admirers though and I think about 3 or 3 proposals of marriage. As for the destructive curate….well, I’m intrigued now 🙂

  32. I will have to give the poll button a try I wanted somethinging like that on the post
    re the proposals ,I read in Juillette Barkers book some one proposed to Charlotte after meeting her for just one afternoon,,she might not have been pretty but she must have been interesting ,,,
    I am wondering about the curate too ….

  33. I just put a Bronte poll over on Bookstains Lyn, which you might find fun 🙂 I’m a hybrid of both…….heheh
    Charlotte seems to have her fair share of suiters (more than poor Emily) so she must have had something going for her. Perhaps it was her fine mind? Maybe not, men didn’t really go for that in those times 😦

  34. Just a quick note before I ‘get a life’ and find a pub with a beergarden!!
    ‘Lanny’ actually, my mate, was seeing Caroline Norton at the same time his did this effigy of 3 bohemians who look like the Brontes- Harriet Martinau thought he was a dandy buffoon- she tore him apart about vanity and ‘style’ for some reason- did she have ‘boyfriends’?
    I have just had some very good news- something I should have discovered sooner frankly- Branwell’s tutor J. B. Leyland was not only taught by Landseer’s tutor (Benjamin Heydon), but they remained close friends, Landseer visited him in Halifax- and I’v read mention that Leyland actually lived in Haworth? Leyland the sculptor and poet is often quoted as Bran’s best friend, and provides a seperate, simultaneous conduit between the Brontes and Charlotte’s hero. The more one uncovers relating to Landseer and the family, the more one wonders why there is such a derth of reference, except Charlotte’s pictorial homage showing her scar in 1830, and Branwell’s poem? We may be on the verge of finding out.
    Best wishes, James.

    1. I do not know why, I always have the weird intuition – despite the date on the portrait – that the portrait was taken at the same time JB Leyland has made ​​the medallion for Branwell in 1845, after the journey of the three sisters in Brussels and After the death of Elizabeth Branwell. I tell myself that the little legacy Aunt Branwell had allowed the three sisters to order a portrait of themselves (with their beautiful new dresses of half-mourning) while Branwell, who had not received any inheritance, should just write a poem to Leyland in exchange for his medallion. I was wondering that artist with the initials EL could be among the Leyland’s relations … And that Landseer! But was he not already suffering from depression since the late 1830s?

  35. Leyland the sculptor (and poet) is indeed always quoted as Branwell’s best friend! His connection to Landseer may be just the breakthrough you’ve been looking for! Exciting 🙂 Fingers crossed for you!

  36. Hi Louise,
    I’m afraid, intriguing as it is, there is no room or need for speculation about who made the picture or when, although your ideas are fascinating- no less so than the truth.
    The intials ‘E.L.’ became unique to Landseer, his monogram since 1810. No educated artist would borrow or assume, no more than an unknown artist could have produced this impossibly fine, clever work. Moreover, the portrait is signed ‘Lan**er – 1838’ and is attributed to Edwin Landseer by National Portrait Gallery.
    I don’t see where you get the notion of ‘new half-mourning’ dresses- they are just cotton house-frocks, probably made by Charlotte, although they were all productive seamstress.
    The new mystery is: did Branwell, through his ‘best friend’, somehow facilitate Landseer’s visit to the parsonage? Do you know if, as I’ve read mention, J.B. Leyland ever lived in Haworth?
    You might be interested to know, I’ve just been looking at a spectacular ‘new’ portrait by Branwell, ‘John Almighty’, lay preacher and landlord of the Star Inn, Sowerby, made 1840-41 while Branwell worked at Sowerby Bridge. It was on a re-run of Antiques R/Show, I’m waiting for owner’s permission to send you images.
    Landseer did suffer ‘wilds of mind’, after making this picture. This ‘taboo’ stigma curtailed their friendship (and was censored from history by a jealous husband and a ‘best friend’) and is why the picture was never delivered. Scholars and biographers point to Duchess Bedford’s refusal of marriage and the death of his mum as the cause of Landseer’s breakdown,- hardly- his propsal was as much a ‘gesture’ as ambition, and everybody’s mum dies. The cause of Edwin’s ilness was much more likely the effect of corruptive, ‘creative’ *advice from his mentor Jacob BELL. I have the pivotal picture, his comical observation of 2 dogs ‘Devotion & Irritation’ which *consequently became ‘Dignity & Impudence’ and graphically illustrates Landseer’s gentle compliance, genius and probable torment.
    How are you getting on with ‘Charlotte’s’ new face? I have mentioned to BPM that the ‘only photo’ is no way Charlotte, and dimensionally fits Ellen Nussey, but had no reply yet. They have re-published the pastel of Elizabeth Gaskill, still described as Charlotte though, not sure why.
    Very best wishes, James

    1. Dear James,

      I’m really happy to read that the attribution is confirmed to Landseer, with the endorsement of the National Portrait Gallery. As for my imaginary scenario about the portrait, it is simply the result of different assumptions that came to my mind when reading the dialogue between you and Christina on the BrontëBlog in 2009. Without rejecting one or the other argument, I tried to imagine how things could have happened from these different points of view. The evocation of half-mourning dresses has just been a comment from Christina. Regarding Landseer, if he had contacts both with Nussey and Leyland, it multiplies the chances that his fate have indeed crossed the fate of the Brontës. A big thank you for taking the time to answer all these questions that arise as we learn more about this portrait, this is very generous of you. Sincerely, Louise

      1. Dear Madamoisellbronte, If I don’t comment its only because I can’t really contribute or add any more to it. I have watched this debate with great interest and am as anxious for the outcome of the painting as anyone. But I feel that I am actually intruding on peoples own personal corrospondence!

        The Bronte thread by the way is part of many on this Art based blog, so please feel free to contribute to other threads thanks 🙂

        As this thread is becoming exceedingly long, mainly consisting of corrospondence between 2 people and you are now involving other peoples blogs, I feel it is becoming a forum in which I have to adjudicate. This was never my intention. I have however come up with a solution which I hope you may approve of….

        1. Dear echostains,

          I undertand perfectly, I was already feeling some disconfort writing about this topic on your comments section. Feel free to delete any comment you want. I hope Lyn and James, and you, will continue this debate on my blog if necessary. I have wrote 3 posts on this subject on Les soeurs Brontë web site for this reason. I apologize for any disconfort this situation have cause to you.

          Best regards,


  37. Louise, I don’t want to delete any of the comments, they are all interesting and informative. I think what I should do is transfer the post to my other site Bookstains with a link to the comments from here. I’ve transferred quite a few previous posts that were about films, books etc from Echostains over to Bookstains as I’ve started doing authors birthdays and poetry and I feel Bookstains is more of a literary platform (and the post will get more views). The art aspect will still be on echostains but the debate will be on Bookstains. Another benefit of transferring this is that I can promote the original echostain post from here every time there is a new comment on Bookstains (and of course vice verse). When someone contributes to a poetry challenge on Bookstains, I update any post I have on Echostains to let people know that theres been a new development. This has resulted in more views for the post.

    So don’t worry, I’ll keep everything so far here, along with all the comments. I’ll close this thread but put a link to Bookstains where all the corrospondence can continue. I too am eager to see how it all
    turns out 🙂 All Best wishes!

  38. I cannot believe that the picture is of the Bronte sisters. Notice the giget/gigot sleeves in the first picture. This is the style while they were living, but not later. The young women in the second picture are wearing fashions that were not in style while they were living.

  39. Hi Judy- you refer to 2 pictures- the first you say features ‘gigot’ or ‘leg o mutton’ sleeves- we both know gigot sleeves were not ‘invented’ until c 1890. The sleeves in the debated portrait are not ‘gigot’ or anything like it- they are plain, hand-sewn, simply tailored single-seamed ‘tubes’ as popular/usual (in the absence of servants/seamstress) until the advent of Singer’s ‘liberating’ machine.
    The ‘second’ picture; you say the subjects are wearing fashions that were ‘not in style while they were living’ – I have no idea what picture you refer to. The girls in the portrait I have been researching wear the epitomy of 1830’s provincial style & structure. Charlottes purple gown (BM) made for honeymoon is near identical in concept and construction to the garment worn in the ‘fresh’ w/colour. I am not aware of a ‘second’ picture confirming or contradicting dates/period? Hope you can help, or explain? best wishes an happy new year all- Jmaes

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