Rare Bronte sisters portrait auctions for $63,000

A newly discovered portrait of the Bronte sisters has sold for £48,450 ($63,000) at JP Humbert Auctioneers.

That price is, in part, testament to the rarity of original paintings of the three celebrated novelists. Indeed, it's only the second confirmed piece to depict the trio.

The sisters' jewellery matches pieces at the Bronte Parsonage

Yet the 1838 watercolour might have been lost for all time, were it not for a mishap at an auction house.

The vendor acquired the work several years ago at an unnamed auctioneer. He had originally bought a different piece, but when the auction house couldn't locate it, he accepted this one in its place – with neither party aware of what they were exchanging.

It was only when he took it to JP Humbert in 2012 that the painting's famous sitters slowly became known.

Humbert's sleuthing discovered that the horsehair sofa matches one in the Bronte Parsonage museum, on which Emily died in 1848.

The novelists' jewellery in the artwork is also identical to surviving pieces in the museum, while the Brontes are known to have had the unusual dove-coloured wall shown in the piece.

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

The price was further boosted by the fact it was produced by famed animal painter Edwin Landseer, responsible for the lions in London's Trafalgar Square.

The sale is the latest evidence of the strong demand for personal pieces of the Bronte story. A tiny manuscript written by a 14-year-old Charlotte sold for £690,850 ($1.1 million) in 2011.

The only other confirmed painting of the three Bronte sisters is by their errant brother Branwell. It sits today in London's National Gallery.

Bronte sisters Branwell

Branwell Bronte was painter, poet, railway worker and drug addict

Branwell had included himself in the portrait, although later painted himself out in favour of a large yellow pillar.

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