Anne-esque Portraits

In researching the photo there is an obvious need to compare the ladies with images of the Bronte Sisters. Unfortunately there are historic problems with these portraits, partly due to errors made in the 1890s which have never been resolved. There is also the question as to whether the artist created a lifelike or idealised portrait. This page gives an overview of the problems.

There is a belief that the Bronte sisters all looked very similar and if you look at the portraits below, published over the past 120 years, this would seem to be the case. This is in complete contrast to contemporary sources:

Branwell’s portrait of Charlotte (left) was accurate according to Elizabeth Gaskell and has the “veritable square face” described by her friend Mary Taylor which her sisters didn't have.
According to Charlotte, Emily had features similar to those of George Henry Lewes and yet he certainly didn't resemble Anne or Charlotte.
Ellen Nussey wrote that Anne was quite different in appearance from the others.” 

Why then do the portraits below show such a close family resemblance?

1) Charlotte Bronte (above). This portrait was considered by her friends “entirely flattering” and was paid for by her publisher, possibly with a view to future publication. In Branwell's portrait she has a straight or retrouss√© nose and a square face but in this portrait by George Richmond her nose appears aquiline and her face is oval. When it was completed Charlotte burst into tears because it looked so much like her sister Anne.

2) Emily Bronte? The second portrait is identified as Emily but this has been disputed since it was discovered in 1914; she is almost certainly Anne.

3) Emily Bronte? Wild-looking Emily is derived from Anne in the 'Pillar Portrait.'

4) Anne Bronte This is Anne in the 'Pillar Portrait,' the only sister who actually had an aquiline nose.


The combination of one idealised portrait of Charlotte and two images of Anne - wrongly identified as Emily - has distorted our view of the sisters.  They were very different from one another as they are in Branwell's Pillar Portrait 'The Bronte Sisters' (NPG 1725) and in contemporary descriptions.

There is only one undisputed portrait of Emily Bronte, seen in Branwell's 'Pillar portrait.' At least one portrait of Emily was made by Charlotte and it probably still exists.