For Women Crush Wednesday let’s talk about an Egyptologist who is known for her imaginative drawings of the ancient kings and queens of Egypt. Let’s meet Winnifred Brunton.
Winifred Mabel Newberry was born on May 6th, 1880 in the Orange Free State of South Africa. Her father Charles Newberry was a millionaire who made his money in the diamond mining industry in Kimberly South Africa. Winifred’s mother was named Elizabeth and she was also very artistic. Her father was also the builder of Prynnsberg Estate, which is a large house in Clocolan. This house is still standing to this day and is now an elite hotel and wedding venue.
Winifred was presented to court in London in 1898. This is most likely where she met Guy Brunton, who became her future husband. Guy Brunton was an English archaeologist and Egyptologist. He most notably discovered the Badarian predynastic culture. He later became the Assistant Director of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo in 1931.
They were married on April 28th, 1906, and built a house together in Berea, Johannesburg later that year. Together they studied at University College London under Flinders Petrie, training with Margaret Murray. During this time, Winifred painted a portrait of Petrie.
They traveled to work with Petrie in Lahun from 1912 to 1914. Here, Winifred studied the evidence of the various paintings, sculptures, and even mummies to develop her final portraits. They also worked with Petrie at sites like Badari where Winifred drew many of the discovered artifacts.
In Guy’s publication of the excavations of Mostagedda in 1927 and 1929, he wrote that she was “the hardest-working member of the party” and “without her skill and untiring energy this volume would have had only a very small proportion of its value as a record.” Both of them would be on-site for months at a time and Guy and Winifred were equal partners. She was also known to work with Gertrude Caton Thompson and Hilda Petrie.
Winifred and her husband retired at her family’s mansion in Prynnsberg where she died in 1959 at the age of 78.
Winifred was best known for her portraits of the ancient Egyptian kings and queens. She published many of these watercolors in her books, Kings, and Queens of Ancient Egypt in 1926 and Great Ones of Ancient Egypt in 1929.
While her portraits are not necessarily accurate, her portraits have been hugely influential and defined the faces of the Pharaohs and the Queens in popular cultures. I believe that some may need a little updating because of biases of the time.
Here is a link to some of her paintings with are on sale.
She also painted the murals in her family’s home, some of which were Egyptian-themed. The estate became a national gem, but her family’s fortune did not survive, and many items were sold in 1996. Some of the auction pieces were numerous Egyptian antiquities that the Bruntons excavated and one of her paint palettes, which is now in the collection of Lambert Vorster.
Photo of her painting – Wikimedia Commons (Bobbyshabangu)
Cleopatra, Ramesses II, Nubian Pharaoh, ancient Egyptian couple, and other portraits – https://www.quora.com/What-do-Egyptologists-think-of-Winifred-Bruntons-portraits-of-ancient-Egyptian-royals-and-nobles
More portraits – https://alchetron.com/Winifred-Brunton
Her paint palette and a sketch of a young Egyptian – https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/museums/2014/01/17/cairo-camden-and-the-cape/
Image of Guy Brunton sleeping, possibly at Matmar – https://storestoriescambridge.wordpress.com/tag/winifred-brunton/