Bronte Portraits

On the next three pages the portraits of the Bronte family have been used to compare with the ladies in the photo. 

The only known portraits of Emily and Anne depict them as girls aged about 13 or 14, but the ladies in the photograph are in their late 20s, making any comparison difficult but not impossible.

There are doubts about some portraits - these are shown on the Confusing Images page.

The Pillar Portrait.

Only one group portrait painting survives of all three Bronte Sisters, this is known as the "Pillar Portrait" painted c1833 by their teenage brother Branwell, depicting from left to right: Anne, Emily and Charlotte. It is known as the Pillar Portrait because of the pillar which is  where Branwell has painted himself out of the picture, the outline of his figure is just visible.

The painting was at Haworth Parsonage until the death of Patrick Bronte in 1861 when Charlotte's widower, Arthur Bell Nicholls, took it with him to Ireland.

Mr Nicholls kept the portrait in a wardrobe, upstairs in his house. After the formation of the Bronte Society enquiries were made about the painting but he didn't admit that it still existed. A poor photograph of it was discovered and a copy sent to him in 1897 but he wouldn't acknowledge that his wife or Emily were portrayed.

The reason for this seems to have been that he didn't want any image of Charlotte published, other than the idealised and flattered portrait by George Richmond. Arthur Bell Nicholls died in 1906 but the Pillar Portrait wasn't discovered until 1914.

The Gun Group.

A second group portrait painted c1834 by Branwell, known as the "Gun Group," did exist but it was mostly destroyed by Arthur Bell Nicholls after it was taken to Ireland. Tracings of the female figures exist which relate to the portrait have survived as well as a poor photograph and an engraving made from the photo. The only surviving fragment, the right-hand figure, is known as the "Profile Portrait."

Charlotte and Branwell are in the centre but the identity of the "Profile Portrait" identified as Emily in 1914, is disputed; it is probably Anne (see Profile Portrait - Emily or Anne).

Tracings relating to the Gun Group. 

An 1850s photo, discovered c1990, of the original Gun Group.

The Profile Portrait at the National Portrait Gallery is the only surviving fragment from the Gun Group.

An 1870s engraving of the photo of the Gun Group.

The left-hand tracing is identified as Anne Bronte but is probably Emily. This would mean that the right-hand tracing and the Profile Portrait are of Anne.


The Richmond Portrait of Charlotte (1850) by George Richmond is an idealised portrait paid for by her publisher so an exact comparison with the photo is not possible. There are several variations of this portrait including engravings; the "Thompson portrait" was probably made from a reversed photograph of the engraving.

There are portraits and photographs of other family members, close and distant.

Patrick Bronte
The Bronte sisters father.

Maria Bronte (nee Branwell)
The Bronte sisters' mother.

Marion Branwell
(distant cousin)

Edith Branwell
(distant cousin)