Portrait of author Emily Brontë comes to auction07 May 2021 A picture believed to be of Emily Brontë (1818-48) bought by a literature professor, who spent years researching it, is coming to auction later this month.
The late Professor Christopher Heywood (1928-2021) argued in articles and research that the portrait is of Brontë and is in fact the ‘The Lost Bonnet Portrait’.
It will be offered be offered without reserve with an estimate of £25,000-40,000 at Northamptonshire firm Humbert Ellis in a timed online-only sale ending on May 23 having been consigned by the executors of Heywood’s estate.
Heywood had purchased the unauthenticated picture from the auction house in 2011, keen to research the painting and prove it was indeed of Emily Brontë. It had been previously consigned by a collector and academic from Oundle and was sold at £20,200.
This month it will be returning to auction at the same Humbert Ellis saleroom.
Heywood, an English literature professor, spent four years researching the Brontë portrait and its provenance before publishing a research paper in The Journal of the Brontë Society in 2015 (volume 40 number 2) and subsequent articles.
However, some later articles published have disputed Heywood’s claims, including those by the late Sarah Fermi (a former Brontë Society member), literary critic Patsy Stoneman and a Brontë biographer Edward Chitham.
In Heywood’s paper, titled Found: The ‘Lost’ Portrait of Emily Brontë, he argued the painter of the oil on board was Bradford portrait artist John Hunter Thompson (1808-90) and he believed it passed to the family of Brontë servants Nancy and Sarah Garrs.
The Brontë sisters – Emily Brontë, author of Wuthering Heights, and Charlotte, author of Jane Eyre – both had pen names. Emily wrote under the male pseudonym Ellis Bell and Charlotte as Currer Bell.
On the reverse of the picture in pencil was written Emily Brontë/ Sister of Charlotte Brontë / Currer Bell [her pseudonym]. Heywood believed it to be in Charlotte’s hand.