Discovered: unknown Bronte sisters portrait to make $50,000?

A recently discovered portrait of the Bronte sisters auctions in the UK on Sunday.

Nothing startling about that, you say?

Consider that it's only the second known portrait of the literary giants together. That the vendor acquired it by accident. And that the artist is the same man who crafted the lions in London's Trafalgar Square, Edwin Landseer.

Bronte portrait

Note the jewellery, the sofa and the wall colour

The consignor acquired the 1838 watercolour many years ago at an auction house whose name has been kept a secret.

That's lucky for them. Because the buyer had actually successfully bid on a different painting. But when the auctioneer was unable to locate it, they offered him this one instead.

Unaware of its connection to the Brontes, he approached auctioneer JP Humbert in 2012, which has since unearthed three compelling facts that suggest it is indeed the Brontes.

  1. Their jewellery matches that now in the Bronte Parsonage museum.
  2. The horsehair sofa is an identical match to one in the museum, and believed to be the one on which Emily died in 1848.
  3. The Brontes were known to have the unusual dove-coloured wall depicted in the painting.

"This painting is a bridge between the literary and art worlds and is indeed a painting of national importance," the auctioneer told the BBC.

It all explains why the piece is estimated at £25,000-40,000 ($32,000-50,000) ahead of its sale on July 16.

The only other confirmed portrait of the three sisters together resides in London's National Gallery. It was produced by enigmatic brother, Branwell.

Bronte portrait, missing Branwell

The other one - Branwell replaced his face with a pillar

Tests have confirmed that Branwell had originally included himself in the portrait, before replacing his face with a large yellow pillar.

Bronte artefacts are big hitters at auction.

A tiny manuscript written by Charlotte when she was just 14, depicting the goings on in her fictional "Glass Town", auctioned for £690,850 ($1.1 million) in 2011.

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