What is thought to be the earliest photo in the Bronte
Parsonage Museum also has a roughly-hewn, hand-cut mat and a similar pinchbeck
frame. This is despite the fact that in the 1850s machine-cut mats were widely
In the Parsonage photo the right edge of the mat is
straight, the opposite edge slightly concave, and the
other two are uneven. The 'Bronte Sisters Photo' is cut in exactly the
same way except that the straight edge is on the left and
the concave side on the right. This is unlikely to be a coincidence.
ABOVE: The Bronte
Museum's photo of Haworth Parsonage
c1857 and the 'Bronte Sisters
photo' with similar hand-cut mat and frame.
Hand-cut mats are not often seen in 1850s photos and where they do
exist they are usually straight. The two photos are not only badly cut, but badly
cut in the same manner; as both appear to be Bronte-related they were almost
certainly taken by the same photographer about 1857.
There is a grey cast to the 'Bronte Sisters Photo' which is more noticeable when
compared to other contemporary photos. This lack of tonal range and contrast, and the
fact that it isn't level, is a sign that it may well be a copy of an earlier
photo. The BPM allowed us to compare the two photos in 2012 (see the image below).