The picture dubbed the ‘The Lost Bonnet Portrait’ of Emily Brontë (1818-48) by its late owner will be offered by Northamptonshire firm Humbert Ellis.
The late Professor Christopher Heywood (1928-2021) had purchased the unauthenticated picture from the auction house in 2011, keen to research the painting and prove it was indeed of Emily Brontë. Consigned by a collector and academic from Oundle, it was hammered down at £20,200.
This month it will be returning to auction at Humbert Ellis in a timed online-only sale ending on May 23 having been consigned by the executors of Heywood’s estate. It will be offered without reserve with an estimate of £25,000-40,000.
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 other 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.
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.
View the Emily Brontë picture via thesaleroom.com.