WEST YORKSHIRE.- The Brontė Society
announced the acquisition of an important portrait miniature by Charlotte Brontė from Christies London, acquired with the help of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, The V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Art Fund. The sitter for this portrait miniature is Mrs Hudson of Easton Farm, Bridlington, referred to by Charlotte in a letter to her friend Ellen Nussey, in 1839. The two women had recently stayed with Mrs Hudson and her husband John, and it was during this visit that the miniature was probably painted, as Charlotte Brontė's second visit to the Hudsons, in 1849, was a much more sombre event, occurring just after the funeral of Charlotte's sister Anne, at Scarborough.
The portrait was given to Mrs Hudson by Charlotte and remained in the family, being passed on first to Mrs Hudsons niece, Fanny Whipp, who, in turn, left it to her son. In 1895 the tiny painting went missing, and nothing more was heard of it for over one hundred years. It was feared lost, until it reappeared at a sale at Neales in Nottingham in 2001 where it was acquired by the late Mrs T. S. Eliot, a major collector of miniatures. It is now returning to Charlottes home at the Brontė Parsonage Museum in Haworth, West Yorkshire, where it will be on display to the public for the first time.
Sally McDonald, Chairman of the Brontė Society Council: The Brontė Society is delighted to be bringing this little gem back to the Parsonage for members and visitors alike to enjoy. We would like to thank all those whose generosity has made the return of the miniature possible.
Professor Ann Sumner, Executive Director of The Brontė Society: We are absolutely thrilled to have acquired this significant and very fine example of Charlotte Brontes miniature painting. It is one of her last such portrait miniatures painted during a happy month spent with her friends the Hudsons at Easton House. In this charming work she captures her friend in profile. The provenance of the miniature is also impressive. We are enormously grateful to all those who have supported our fundraising campaign to acquire this work and to Christies for negotiating this acquisition. The portrait will next year be on show in a new display on The Brontes and the Railways because Charlotte Bronte travelled for the first time by train in 1839 en route to visit the Hudsons. She took the train from Leeds to Selby.
Jo Langston, Head of Department, Portrait Miniatures, Christies London: Christies is delighted to have been able to facilitate the acquisition of this portrait miniature by The Brontė Society. The work will now return to the Parsonage where it will join the other rare examples of portraiture by Charlotte Brontė.
The present miniature is a rare example of portraiture in Charlotte Brontė's artistic oeuvre. Although she dedicated herself to drawing, and had hopes early on of becoming a professional artist and miniature painter, Charlotte's skills lay in copying and imitating landscapes, not portraits. Charlotte, and her sisters, like most middle-class women of the early 19th century, had originally been taught to draw via the medium of copying. Engravings, and Romantic landscapes, such as those included in the works of Lord Byron, were favourites of Charlotte. She became an accomplished amateur with an excellent eye for detail, displaying two copies of engravings at an art exhibition at Leeds in 1834, but she soon came to realize that her inability to paint from her imagination and her lack of originality in her compositions would impede her as a professional artist. She focused her efforts on writing instead.
This portrait of Mrs Hudson belongs, stylistically, to a group of works already in the Brontė Society collection, which includes miniature portraits by Charlotte of her mother, youngest sister, Anne, and close friend Ellen Nussey, with whom she visited the Hudsons.