Of all three Brontës Sisters this is the only group portrait painting that survives, known as the «Pillar Portrait», painted in c1833 by their teenage brother Branwell, depicting from left to right: Anne, Emily and Charlotte. It is known as the Pillar Portrait because of the pillar which is where Branwell has painted himself out of the picture, the outline of his figure is just visible.
The Brontës were a nineteenth-century literary family associated with the village of Thornton in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England. The sisters, Charlotte (1816–1855), Emily (1818–1848), and Anne (1820–1849), are known as poets and novelists. Like many contemporary female writers, they originally published their poems and novels under male pseudonyms: Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Their stories immediately attracted attention for their passion and originality. Charlotte’s Jane Eyre was the first to know success, while Emily’s Wuthering Heighs, Anne’s The Tenant of Wilsfell Hall and other works were later to be accepted as masterpieces of literature.
The painting was at Haworth Parsonage until the death of Patrick Bronte in 1861 when Charlotte’s widower, Arthur Bell Nicholls, took it with him to Ireland.
Mr Nicholls kept the portrait in a wardrobe, upstairs in his house. After the formation of the Bronte Society enquiries were made about the painting but he didn’t admit that it still existed. A poor photograph of it was discovered and a copy sent to him in 1897 but he wouldn’t acknowledge that his wife or Emily were portrayed.
The reason for this seems to have been that he didn’t want any image of Charlotte published, other than the idealised and flattered portrait by George Richmond. Arthur Bell Nicholls died in 1906 but the Pillar Portrait wasn’t discovered until 1914.
what: painting by Branwell Brontës, 1833
where: on the internet (sources:wikipedia, http://www.brontesisters.co.uk/Bronte-Portraits.html)