A young lady called Mrs Hudson, in profile to the left, in black dress, white lace shawl pinned with a jewelled brooch, wearing a white lace bonnet tied with a blue ribbon, curling brown hair
on card
oval, 2½ in. (64 mm.) high, gilt-metal mount within rectangular black wood frame
A paper label on the reverse is inscribed 'Painted by / Charlotte Brontë / Mrs. Hudson, Easton / W. Bridlington / the 'Mrs. H' mentioned /in Mrs Gestell's / Memoirs'.
Mr John and Mrs Sophia Hudson (née Whip);
Fanny Whipp North;
Edward Roundell Whipp North.
Neales Auction House, Nottinghamshire, 29 November 2001.
With D. S. Lavender (Antiques) Ltd., in 2001.
Sale room notice
Christie's is pleased to announce that the present lot has been sold by private treaty to the Bronte Society, for the Bronte Parsonage Museum, Haworth.

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Katharine Cooke
Katharine Cooke

Lot Essay

This miniature was painted by Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855), author of Jane Eyre and sister of authors Emily (1818-1848) and Anne (1820-1849) Brontë. The sitter is probably the 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 Brontë's second visit to the Hudsons, in 1849, was a much more sombre event, occuring just after the funeral of Charlotte's sister Anne, at Scarborough. After her first visit, Charlotte wrote to her friend Ellen, 'Remember me very kindly to Mrs Hudson... Tell her that our stay at E[aston] is one of the pleasant recollections of my life - one of the green spots that I look back on with real pleasure. I often think it was singularly good of her to receive me, a perfect stranger, so kindly as she did.'
The present miniature is a rare example of portraiture in Charlotte Brontë'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 Burns and Sir Walter Scott, 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 focussed her efforts on writing instead.
Some examples of Brontë's portraiture do survive, including her drawings of Zenobia Marchioness Ellrington, 1833 and her friend, Ellen Nussey, with whom she visited the Hudsons (both now in the Brontë parsonage Museum) and a miniature of her sister Anne, dated 1834, which is in profile and is very similar to the present work.
Amateur miniature painting was popular throughout this period and appears in Charlotte's written work. In chapter 16 of Jane Eyre (1847), Jane, an artistic governess, compares herself to the lovely Blanche Ingram, who she believes Mr Rochester will marry, by drawing a self-portrait in chalk, entitled, 'Portrait of a Governess, disconnected, poor, and plain' and a full-colour miniature on ivory of Blanche, describing it as follows:
"[T]ake a piece of smooth ivory--you have one prepared in your drawing-box: take your palette, mix your freshest, finest, clearest tints; choose your most delicate camel-hair pencils; delineate carefully the loveliest face you can imagine; paint it in your softest shades and sweetest lines, according to the description given by Mrs. Fairfax of Blanche Ingram; remember the raven ringlets, the oriental eye;-- [...] Recall the august yet harmonious lineaments, the Grecian neck and bust; let the round and dazzling arm be visible, and the delicate hand; omit neither diamond ring nor gold bracelet; portray faithfully the attire, aerial lace and glistening satin, graceful scarf and golden rose; call it 'Blanche, an accomplished lady of rank.'
"Whenever, in future, you should chance to fancy Mr. Rochester thinks well of you, take out these two pictures and compare them: say, 'Mr. Rochester might probably win that noble lady's love, if he chose to strive for it; is it likely he would waste a serious thought on this indigent and insignificant plebeian?'"
"[...] An hour ortwo sufficed to sketch my own portrait in crayons; and in less than a fortnight I had completed an ivory miniature of an imaginary Blanche Ingram. It looked a lovely face enough, and when compared with the real head in chalk, the contrast was as great as self-control could desire."

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