Anne Bronte

Comparing Anne

Opinions differ as to whether Branwell's 'Pillar' Portrait was painted before or after his (mostly destroyed) 'Gun-Group' and so the dates given are only estimates. The tracings were either made after the Gun-Group was painted or used by Branwell to compose the portrait.

Anne in Branwell's Pillar Portrait at the NPG.

Left: Confirmed portrait of Anne Bronte in the 'Pillar Portrait' c1834, aged about 14. The original has been reversed for comparison with the photo.The portrait was painted by her brother Branwell then aged about 17 years-old.

Right: 'Anne' in the photograph - if this is Anne & the photo was taken in 1845 she would be 25 years old.

The Profile Portrait at the NPG, the only remaining portion of Branwell's 'Gun-Group.'
Her identity has been debated since 1914.
She is almost certainly Anne (see Profile Portrait - Emily or Anne) and not Emily.

Above: The Profile Portrait c1835 alongside the tracing; Anne would be about 15 years old. 
Below: 'Anne' in the photograph - if this is Anne & the photo was taken in 1845 she would be 25 years old.

It is difficult to see in these web images but the lady in the photo appears to be breathing through her mouth with her tongue against her bottom lip. Anne Bronte suffered from asthma.

Left: A (reversed) portrait of Anne, aged about 14 years, drawn by her sister, Charlotte c1833.

Right: 'Anne' in the photograph - if this is Anne & the photo was taken in 1845 she would be 25 years old.

Comparing 'Anne' and the Rev Patrick Bronte.
The Rev Patrick Bronte (father of the Bronte Sisters) compared with 'Anne' in the mystery photo.

Some descriptions of Anne

"Her hair was a very pretty light brown, and fell on her neck in graceful curls. She had lovely violet-blue eyes, fine pencilled eyebrows and a clear almost transparent complexion."

 "[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."

 Description of Anne by Charlotte's friend, Ellen Nussey.

"A gentle, quiet, rather subdued person, by no means pretty, yet of a pleasing appearance.....Her manner was curiously expressive of a wish for protection and encouragement, a kind of constant appeal which invited sympathy."

Description of Anne by the publisher George Smith.

"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."

Description of Anne by Charlotte's friend, Ellen Nussey.1.

“Copied from the life”

“My object in writing the following pages was not simply to amuse the Reader; neither was it to gratify my own taste, nor yet to ingratiate myself with the Press and the Public: I wished to tell the truth, for truth always conveys its own moral to those who are able to receive it.

But as the priceless treasure too frequently hides at the bottom of a well, it needs some courage to dive for it, especially as he that does so will be likely to incur more scorn and obloquy for the mud and water into which he has ventured to plunge, than thanks for the jewel he procures; as, in like manner, she who undertakes the cleansing of a careless bachelor's apartment will be liable to more abuse for the dust she raises than commendation for the clearance she effects.

Let it not be imagined, however, that I consider myself competent to reform the errors and abuses of society, but only that I would fain contribute my humble quota towards so good an aim; and if I can gain the public ear at all, I would rather whisper a few wholesome truths therein than much soft nonsense.”

Preface to the second edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Anne is the sister most likely to been interested in the unflattered, true-likeness of a daguerreotype image "taken from the life." The principles of early photography as an art form mirror her belief in truth and realism, depicting in her novels people and events “copied from the life.”

In 1845, Anne was probably the wealthiest of the three sisters, having been in constant employment for five years. As a governess at Thorp Green Hall near York she was earning £40 p.a. and had an income from shares in the railways. 

If the photo belonged to Anne it would have remained in her possession until her death in May 1849, when Charlotte was in the middle of writing her novel 'Shirley.' This was published in October 1849 and Charlotte is thought to be 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."


1. The Brontës: Life and Letters, Being an Attempt to Present a Full and Final Record of the Lives of the Three Sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë from the Biographies of Mrs. Gaskell and Others, and from Numerous Hitherto Unpublished Manuscripts and Letters, Volume 1, P103.