The only existing portrait of The Brontë Sisters, this Portrait (1834) was painted by their brother, Branwell Brontë. (The ghostly figure that was once covered by a pillar is Branwell.)
“This portrait has really influenced people’s image of the Brontës because it’s the only surviving image of them. They look so somber and so depressed... yet it’s worth remembering that this painting is not a depiction of novelists at the height of their power, but a brother’s portrait of his teenage sisters. They’re ten years away from publishing their novels...As wonderful and haunting as this painting is, it’s skewed our perception.”
-Christine Nelson, curator of The Morgan Library's Charlotte Bronte, an Independent Will
After seeing the Charlotte Brontë exhibit with my daughter at the Morgan Library in New York this past December, I'm especially interested in the Masterpiece special tomorrow! (I'm sorry I'm so late blogging about this amazing exhibit - it left The Morgan in January.) You can read in fascinating detail about The Morgan's Charlotte Brontë, An Independent Will exhibit here and watch a video about it here.
The exhibit included a Frontpiece (with an engraved view of Haworth parsonage and churchyard) to The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell (1810–1865) - which I really want to read now.
Curator Christine Nelson gathered interesting personal effects and manuscripts associated Charlotte Brontë for the Morgan's exhibit—from brother Branwell Brontë’s portrait of his famous sisters to miniature books, fair copies of novels, letters, and watercolor paintings of the author and her sisters. I've shared some of my photos here on my blog for you...
Entering the exhibit, the first thing I saw was one of Charlotte Brontë's few surviving garments. She was a tiny woman! Seeing her dress and shoes brought tears to my eyes!
I also shed a tear seeing her portable writing box and a first edition of Jane Eyre.
Jane Eyre, An Autobiography, edited by Currer Bell, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1848. First American edition.
(Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell were the pseudonyms of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë.)
If you watch it, let me know what you think of the special on the Brontë sisters that aires on PBS tomorrow night!