Friday, 15 June 2012

Books in the News: Jane Austen Portrait Uncovered



A Portrait Thought to be Jane Austen is Unearthed!

It is very likely that this portrait depicts the writer at the age of 13:

Reproduction of Portrait hoped to be Austen at 13

This portrait has been at the centre of a debate for many years, but only now has it been digitally reproduced for the general public to see. Whilst the evidence seems to point absolutely at the conclusion that this is Jane herself, it is only now that doubts about its subject are starting to be proven wrong,

'The painting, owned by the Rice family, direct descendants of one of Jane's brothers, has been the subject of debate almost since it came to public light in the late 19th century. The Rices say it was composed during an Austen family visit to the house of Jane's great uncle Francis, in Kent in 1789, when Jane was 13. According to the recorded family history, having commissioned the portrait Francis kept it in Sevenoaks with the rest of his family collection. It was then given by his grandson, Colonel Thomas Austen, to a close friend as a wedding present, the year after the author died in 1817, because the bride was reported to be a keen admirer of Austen's books.' (Source)

The main reason this portrait hasn't been verified as Jane were the doubts of the National Portrait Gallery.

'However, since the 1940s art experts, led by the National Portrait Gallery, have raised objections, principally that the style of the girl's dress and the general composition date the painting after 1800. By then, Jane Austen would have been in her 20s, too old to be the girl depicted.' (Source)

However, the new evidence seems to suggest that they were mistaken,

'But the new evidence also provides important clues that could contradict the established view. The digital analysis has been conducted on a photograph of the canvas dating back to 1910 when the photographer Emery Walker was hired to reproduce the image for a collection of Jane Austen's letters. The original glass plates have since been stored in the National Portrait Gallery's own reference library, and have only now been digitally reproduced.' (Source)

Further analysis will surely prove either way, but I for one like to believe that it is Jane...and how beautiful she was!

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