Unknown woman, formerly known as Charlotte Brontë

Unknown woman, formerly known as Charlotte Brontë, by Unknown artist, 1850 - NPG 1444 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Unknown woman, formerly known as Charlotte Brontë

by Unknown artist
watercolour, 1850
12 1/4 in. x 9 1/4 in. (311 mm x 235 mm)
Purchased, 1906
Primary Collection
NPG 1444

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Events of 1850back to top

Current affairs

Cardinal Wiseman, a Catholic priest who had exerted a strong influence on the Oxford movement, is made a Cardinal and leader of the Catholic church in England, thus restoring Roman Catholic hierarchy in England.

Art and science

Death of poet laureate William Wordsworth; his great autobiographical poem The Prelude is published posthumously, famously charting the growth of the poet's mind.
Tennyson's In Memoriam is also published. A poignant record of his grief over the death of his friend Arthur Hallam, the poem also movingly questions the strength of faith in an increasingly scientific age.


Up to 50,000 pioneers travel west in wagons on the Oregon trail in the United States, one of the main overland migration routes across the continent. Spanning over half the continent, the trail led 2,170 miles through territories and land which would later become six US states, including Kansas, Wyoming and Oregon, helping the US to implement its goal of Manifest Destiny - building a nation spanning the North American continent.

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James Gorin von Grozny

17 February 2017, 16:36

Dear Curators,
The inscription; 'wearing of green for the first time in 3 months' if typically cryptic must be key clue to time and occasion, which must correspond with age of subject, c. 26yrs, and acute circumstances 1841-'42. C.B travelled from Brussells via London to aunt E's funeral, with small/liberating inheritance gave opportunity/means/reason to commission portrait for (to impress) Heger senior, to collect 3 months later via return Jan '42. The left cuff unfinished as if collected in a hurry, perhaps why unsigned. Early Victorian grieving protocol prescribes 3 months for an aunt. Miscellaneous Bronte artefacts show the family were associated with William Henry 'Birds Nest' Hunt among others. The conspicuous genre-portraitist is credited with 'inventing' the white underlay and scraping and scratching techniques of 'pure' w/colour evident in 1444, practised by only a handful of OWS members. The notion 'Miss Vickers' in Victoria's early reign conceivably relates to the dutiful subject's 'alter ego', quintessentially English and studious, The recto inscription is likely merely Paul H's innocent attempt to authenticate the subject. Tate's drawing by Hunt 'Young Man Looking Down' appears made at the same time, when Branwell accompanied C.B to London Jan 1842. If the drawings are contemporary, they will be on rag-paper, wood-pulp introduced later that year. The paper may be from same maker or batch, or same stock-sheet. Would it be possible to collaborate optical analysis of papers to see if the unidentified drawings are related, and reunited brother and sister?

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