The photo is unusual because, judging by the cloaks and the bush in the
background it was taken in the winter, but the women have what appear to be new straw
hats, normally worn in the summer. 1.
If the hats are of British manufacture then this wide-awake
style only became popular about June 1847, making this the earliest possible
date for the photo.1a. The
hats were certainly in Leeds by November 1847, but probably before then
in September, when Jenny Lind was touring and concerts in Hull, York and Sheffield were
Emily Bronte became ill at the start of October 1848, a week after Branwell's
funeral, so this would be the latest date for a photo.
The photo was taken outside, probably because of
the lack of light or space indoors, but 'Emily' has not removed her hat which
would risk obscuring her face; in fact there is just a
light shadow cast over her eyes.
If these are the sisters then the photo may have been taken
between December 1847, after all three had become published authors, and about
the time when the word daguerreotype first entered Charlotte's vocabulary, in January
1848.2. There are many days
in these two months when the sisters whereabouts are unaccounted
Most photos of the 1840s were taken in a daguerreotype studio and there were
about ten of these in Yorkshire. The Bradford studio had closed and does not appear to have been
operating in the period 1847-8. The studio in Leeds was modern and purpose-built, with a large
glazed rooftop studio; there would have been no need to take a photo outdoors in a garden.
The most likely location is the daguerreotype studio in Stonegate, York as it
was operating and did have a garden to the rear. Bellerby's Public Library & Bookshop,
previously used by Branwell and Anne, was opposite, and by January 1848 all three of the sisters'
novels were probably on sale there.
If a photograph was taken then it is little wonder that there was no mention of
it. A great deal of secrecy surrounded the novels which were published using male pseudonyms. The
publishers and most readers assumed that the authors were men. The novels were written, proofread
and published without even the knowledge of their father, though they were all living under the
Charlotte was very self-conscious about her appearance so it is unlikely that
she would want either a photograph or Branwell's portraits of her to be published. She was
delighted with her portrait by George Richmond, but comments made by her friends and acquaintances
make it clear that this was an idealised portrait.