THIS painting, reputed to be of the Bronte sisters, sold for £50,000 at auction.

Northamptonshire auctioneers J P Humbert said the sale proved right its theory that the picture was by Edwin Landseer and portrayed Haworth literary giants Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte.

The ‘delightful’ study was first offered for sale in 2012 but withdrawn from sale after more evidence came to light regarding its provenance.

Auctioneer Jonathan Humbert said: “The evidence was compelling that this is the Brontes as painted by Landseer and its successful sale has proved that research and factual evidence will overcome apathy and negativity.”

Bidding finally took off just 15 minutes before the end of the ‘timed’ auction, and the auctioneers subsequently reported that the painting sold for £40,550 hammer price, £50,038 including buyer’s premium.

The buyer was a private art investor believed to be UK-based, who apparently plans to complete research on the portrait and re-sell it at a later date.

Before the auction, the “rediscovered Bronte painting” was described as a feminist masterpiece, a delightful and charming watercolour portrait study on ‘rag’ paper of three young ladies from the year 1838 with superlative facial detail.

The auctioneers’ description said: “The composition and pose of the portrait are classic of the day – there is painted reference to jewellery known to have belonged to the girls and now in the Bronte Parsonage Museum.

“The artist also included two other ambient features identifying the sitters; the horse-hair sofa with carved swirl and beaded-curve back, still in residence at the parsonage, and proving it is the sofa Emily ‘declined to leave’ and the unusual colour noted by friend Ellen Nussey; ‘walls not papered, but stained with a pretty dove-coloured tint.’”

The painting, which measures 38cm x 33cm, bears the faint monogramm ‘EL’ (Edwin Landseer)(1802-1873).

It was acquired by mistake when the previous owner bought a painting from an auction, and that it could not be found the Bronte painting was produced in lieu.

The auctioneers established a firm link between the Bronte family and Edwin Landseer, who frequented Yorkshire.

Leading Landseer authority, Richard Ormond OBE, concluded it ‘undoubtedly related’ to a pastel drawing attributed to Edwin Landseer and dated 1836 which has previously been identified as the Bronte sisters.

Bronte Parsonage Museum executive director Kitty Wright declined to comment on the sale of the painting.