Bronte's 'portrait of a Young
Woman' first appeared as an
illustration in 1905. William Robertson Nicoll
(1851-1923) would have been aware of its publication so it is unlikely that this is the lost 'Pencil Sketch of Emily', shown to him by Martha Brown in 1879.
This is not a portrait of Ellen
Nussey. It has been compared with the photographs of her, but the lips and mouth are
the wrong shape altogether.
1a. The handwriting reads: "By my daughter Charlotte, P
2. Brief bio of Joseph Horsfall Turner:
Thornton Edition of Tenant of Wildfell Hall,
Thornton Edition of Tenant of Wildfell Hall, 1907
4. Sotheby's sale in 2012
Brontë, Charlotte. PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG WOMAN.
5. See Charlotte's Two
6. Charlotte did create at least one self-portrait
and Branwell painted his own in the lost 'Gun Group'. Self portraits in profile are
less common but for what appears to be an example see Charles Robert Leslie. Several
features are a close match for 'Charlotte' in the 'Bronte Sisters
Photo'. The original portrait is clearer and more detailed than the
illustration published in 1905. The original portrait can be found
6a. The two small marks may
be a fault in the collodion surface of the photo, or part of the
Alan. High-art Music and Low-brow Types: Physiognomy and Nineteenth-century Iconography Music. Journal of Music
Research, No. 17, Winter 1999 (PDF File):
Physiognomy: "..... the chin had two facets:
projection and roundness. The first characteristic represented will, the latter amativeness
(sexual drive). The forehead had the dimensions of height, width and angle in profile.
A high forehead represented intellect, but broadness was also needed to be truly
wise. Regarding the mouth, the degree of fullness was representative of the level
of sensual passion. Sensual personalities, indicated by large lips, were
considered with distrust; thin lips were indicative of a harsh, mean
personality. Thus, a well-proportioned mouth was expected in an artist.
The nose was considered to be extremely important by Lavater and
subsequent physiognomists. Lavater considered the ideal nose to be equal
in length to the forehead. To give some specific examples, an aquiline (or Roman)
nose reflected firmness, while a straight (Greek) nose indicated
refinement of emotions. A snub nose represented underdevelopment and
See also: Tytler, Graeme.
"Physiognomy in The Professor" Brontë Studies: The Journal of the Brontë
Society. Volume 44, 2019 - Issue 4 Pages 339-350.
7. Brief bio of Martha
8. The photographs of Martha used here are poor quality images retrieved from the
internet. It would be interesting to see clearer copies of the original photos and any other
images of Martha and the Brown family.
It is thought that Martha was
photographed in the late 1850s or early 1860s (a collodion photo on glass). She
certainly had at least two sittings with photographers in the 1860s and 1870s but this was in
the era of carte de visite photographs (photos on paper). In the latter sitting at least two
photographs were taken from slightly different angles, as was often the case at the