A PICTURE believed to be a portrait of Emily Bronte and owned by the late Professor Christopher Heywood of Gargrave, has been put up for sale.

The ‘Lost Bonnet Portrait’ is being auctioned by Northamptonshire firm Humbert Ellis in a timed online-only sale ending on Sunday, May 23 by the executors of the English Literature professor’s estate with no reserve and an estimate of £25,000 to £40,000.

Prof Heywood, a founder member of Gargrave Heritage Group, who always played the ‘Chief Priest’ in the annual nativity play, was affectionately known in the village as ‘The Prof’. He retired to Gargrave, and died earlier this year, aged 93, a few months after moving into a care home.

A lecturer in English Literature, he spent more than 30 years at Sheffield University; he also lectured in Nigeria and taught English at various universities in Japan.

Prof Heywood bought the unauthenticated picture from the same Humbert Ellis auction house in 2011, keen to research the painting and prove it was of Emily Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights, who lived at Haworth with her two surviving sisters, Charlotte and Anne, and brother, Branwell.

He spent four years researching the portrait and its provenance before publishing a research paper in The Journal of the Bronte Society in 2015.

In his article, titled: ‘Found: The ‘Lost’ Portrait of Emily Bronte, Prof Heywood argued that the artist of the oil painting was the Bradford portrait artist John Hunter Thompson, who lived from 1808 to 1890. He believed it passed to the family of Bronte servants Nancy and Sarah Garrs.

However, some later articles published have disputed Prof Heywood’s claims, including those by the late Sarah Fermi - a former Bronte Society member, literary critic Patsy Stoneman and a Bronte biographer Edward Chitham.

Parts of the binding on the back of the portrait, carried a pencilled inscription which Prof Heywood believed to be by Emily’s sister, Charlotte Bronte, writer of Jane Eyre, and possibly ‘written in haste’ on the eve of her wedding in 1854.

Charlotte’s inscription wrote Prof Heywood identified the sitter in the portrait as Emily Bronte.

Prof Heywood was born in Banhoek, South Africa. After graduating in English and French, a Rhodes scholarship brought him to the UK to study English at New College, Oxford.

In an obituary that recently appeared in The Guardian, Prof Heywood was described as a talented musician and painter who retired to Gargrave where he collected his research articles and conference papers into two unfinished books and two that were completed, one of which was A History of South African Literature.

For more details about the portrait visit: thesaleroom.com.