Jane Austen Centre at Bath Unveils Wax Figure of Jane Austen


It’s probably safe to say that all Janeites have had at least one moment of curiosity about what Jane Austen looked like. We don’t have much to go on–a dashed-off, incomplete, badly faded watercolor by Cassandra Austen is the only authenticated image of Jane Austen’s face, which has both frustrated Austen fans as well as inspiring them to create something better.

Today, the Jane Austen Centre at Bath unveiled a wax figure of Jane Austen, created by sculptor Mark Richards (the BBC has a shorter piece with a video interview of the sculptor), inspired by Melissa Dring’s forensic painting of Austen, done several years ago also for the Jane Austen Centre. The painting has received a mixed reception from Janeites, and we are not terribly fond of it, but we like this wax figure rather better. In fact, we like it quite a bit. Continue reading



Once again the Janeite world (and the Muggle press that insists on blowing these things all out of proportion) are creating a controversy out of nothing over images of Jane Austen.

Sotheby’s is auctioning a fake portrait of Jane Austen next month. As fake portraits go, this one is probably slightly less fake than some others. It was commissioned by James Edward Austen-Leigh to be used to create an engraving as a frontispiece to Austen-Leigh’s 1869 Memoir of his aunt. The painting was done by James Andrews of Maidenhead by tracing Cassandra Austen’s watercolor portrait of her sister. The engraving was later used as the basis of perhaps the best-known image of Austen, the infamous “wedding ring portrait” included in a book of eminent persons.

There has been some concern expressed by our own correspondents over this sale, as it is feared it will share the near-fate of Jane Austen’s turquoise ring, purchased and taken out of the country rather than added to a public collection; it would probably be nearly impossible to mount a second rescue mission by Janeites and the museum at Chawton as was done for the ring. However, we find it difficult to get very upset about the fate of this portrait. It is a nice little painting, and that’s it. It wasn’t taken from life, thought it was traced from a portrait that was so taken. However, in the dearth of such images taken from life, Janeites have created new icons of our favorite author. The painting certainly deserves to be part of a museum collection dedicated to Austen. It is to be hoped that whoever purchases it can preserve and display it for all to enjoy.

This portrait has been in the news lately in other ways, as the engraving created from it was used as the basis for the image of Austen that will appear on the British ten-pound bill in a couple of years. Biographer Paula Byrne has been all over the press of late complaining about the portrait chosen for the banknote. Prof. Byrne has previously been recorded as quite passionate on the subject of images of Austen. She feels that the portrait makes Jane appear “saccharine” and that it is an “airbrushing” of Cassandra’s original portrait, and perpetuates Austen’s family’s whitewashing of her personality. We understand Prof. Byrne’s passion on the subject, though most Austen fans, scholars, and attentive readers know better than to consider Jane Austen a sweet, retiring spinster. However, we think that the portrait was chosen for a very simple reason: it is in the public domain. Cassandra’s portrait is owned by the National Portrait Gallery and it cannot be used without its permission, and probably without paying a hefty licensing fee.

All that being said–yes, let’s pick a different Austen quotation for the banknote! We still think the best one would be “I write only for Fame and without any view to pecuniary Emolument.” However, the Muggle public would probably not recognize Austen’s delightful snark.

Check out our previous post, A Closer Look at Images of Jane Austen.

Join a Kickstarter campaign for a Jane Austen art print


This looks like something Janeites might like: a Kickstarter campaign to make an art print inspired by the infamous silhouette that may or may not be of Jane Austen. In any event, it’s really quite lovely. The proprietors have reached their Kickstarter goal, so it looks like it’s going forward; and it’s not too late to get involved. Various contributions will get you swag, from £10 for a small print to £30 for a large print, with associated booklets featuring the Thomson illustrations of Pride and Prejudice.

A Closer Look at Austen Illustrators C.E. and H.M. Brock


We have a treat for everyone for Jane Austen’s Birthday: Our friend Cinthia García Soria, proprietor of Jane Austen Castellano, the Spanish-language Austen discussion mailing list, has written a long article about C.E. and H.M. Brock, brothers who illustrated all of Jane Austen’s novels at least twice (P&P three or four times!). Cinthia has collected the Brock-illustrated editions of Austen’s novels, and has made a study of the illustrators’ lives and work. In the article, she explains the differences between the various Brock-illustrated editions, and if you have ever been confused by seeing different styles or coloring of the various illustrations, or by a book that was described as “Brock-illustrated” and seeing different drawings than expected, then this article will explain it all. Cinthia has been working on this paper for a long time and we are incredibly proud that she has asked us to post it on Molland’s, where we have archived most of the Brocks’ Austen illustrations, along with some by other artists. Cinthia is the force behind that archive, and provided most of the Brock illustrations–we literally could not have done it without her! We encourage you to read this fascinating history over at Molland’s.

Fan art might not be fan art, but it’s hard to tell


Fan painting of Jane Austen

Copyright claimed by Paula Byrne

A while back, we shared a link to an auction of what we teasingly referred to as “fan art,” a portrait of Jane Austen thought to have been executed by a dedicated reader who liked to draw photos of how he imagined his favorite authors to look. At the time, we added a copy of the photo of the portrait (which you can see at left–click for the larger size) that we took from the auction site.

A few days after the auction, we received a request from someone claiming to represent the buyer. He said the buyer now owned the copyright, and asked us to remove the photo. He also promised that the image was being investigated and we would receive information about it when it became available. We disagree with the claim of copyright, which was owned by the photographer of the portrait, not the owner of the portrait; however, we don’t own the copyright either way, and he asked nicely, and we didn’t care enough about the image to fight it, so we took it down, asked to be updated when the time came, and forgot about it.

Yesterday, we received an e-mail saying we could post the photo again, with a press release about a program(me) to be aired on BBC Two, meaning we won’t be able to see it legally, which gives zero information about the actual portrait other than the usual tiresome claims about THIS IS THE ONLY REAL PORTRAIT OF JANE AUSTEN EXCEPT FOR THAT UGLY TIRED LITTLE THING IN THE NPG THAT DOESN’T COUNT. It all sounds very interesting, but it does us zero good as far as actually learning anything new. It just tells us to watch the TV program(me) that will be broadcast on another continent if we want to know more. We’re feeling a little used here, Gentle Readers. But we present the information, because that is our job, and we think it will be this week’s Wonder Story About Jane Austen. See our previous post about images of Jane Austen. Full press release after the jump. Continue reading

A Fool and His Money


…will buy an unattributed portrait of Jane Austen, presumably. There’s one currently for sale on eBay, purveyor of fine art.

Offered here is a rare and important early 19th century oil painting which by tradition depicts the English novelist Jane AUSTEN (1775 – 1817.)

Whose tradition would that be?

While shawls were another popular fashion item of the day, it is worth noting that Jane Austen’s father died in 1905. If this shawl is taken as a token of mourning, it makes Austen 29 in this portrait – perfectly plausible.

Oh, certainly.

The writing implement in the portrait is a “quill holder” or “quill slip holder” of the type popular in the first decade of the 19th century and which represents the evolution between the feather quill pen and the later widespread popularity of the fountain pen.

But wait…why would she have been painted with a pen when she didn’t publish her first book until 1811? Huh huh huh? (We don’t think Jane was so egocentric as to consider her purchased-but-unpublished Susan sufficient reason to puff herself off as a Published Author. Standards are lower in this degenerate age, of course.)

This painting is not just a beautiful and sensitive work of art but potentially a historical object of the very highest importance and value.

And you can get it for the low-low price of £280, if you bid quickly! Make haste, as the auction ends tonight! It’s a good thing the seller didn’t take it to Sotheby’s or Christie’s, where bidding for such an item might start in the thousands. Get a rare, valuable work of art for less than the cost of an iPad!

So the questions, as we see it, are:

1. Is this truly a portrait of Jane Austen?

2. If so, how in the name of Harris Bigg-Wither did it end up in Glasgow?

Point and laugh, Gentle Readers. Sometimes, that’s all you can do.

ETA: AND SOLD for £805.86. We suppose as a period work, it might be worth that much; but we hope that some eejit doesn’t start promoting this all over the place as The Lost Portrait of Jane Austen. We’ve got quite enough of that already.

Fan Art of Jane Austen to Be Auctioned


Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s not fan art.

A drawing of Jane Austen by an unknown artist–presumably an “imaginary portrait” by someone who did not know her–will be auctioned by Bonhams on March 29. From the website:

THIS IS THE EARLIEST OF THE SO-CALLED ‘IMAGINARY’ PORTRAITS OF JANE AUSTEN, thus listed by Deirdre Le Faye in her article ‘Imaginary Portraits of Jane Austen’ in Jane Austen Society Report, 2007, pp. 42-52 (a copy of which is included with the lot).

Le Faye suggests that the portrait ‘could be as early as 1818’, one year after Austen’s death. Le Faye comments: ‘This might well be a creation by the Revd William Jones (1777-1821), curate and vicar of Broxbourne and Hoddesdon – or if not him, someone with very similar interests. On 17th April 1818 Mr Jones confided to his diary: “Whenever I am much ‘taken with’ an author, I generally draw his or her likeness in my own fancy…”

The estimate is £1,000-2,000. Have fun if you want to bid! Feel free to come here and gloat if you win!