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Jane Austen's Portrait

Updated on July 18, 2022

Jane Austen

Jane Austen's Portrait

Jane Austen was the beloved British Author who lived 200 hundred years in the past in the Regency era. Through the years many readers, artist, writers and Filmmakers have tried to figure out what she actually looked like. Largely ignored by the public since it was published over 125 years ago this painting is a lovely Regency style piece.

Along with this fine painting I have complied every known painting of Jane Austen done while she was alive and commissioned shortly after her death by family members of Jane Austen.

All to help you make up your own mind, if this is Jane Austen or not.

The Rice Portrait

Jane Austen Rice Portrait" Henry rice was the owner of this portrait. Henry was a direct descendant of Jane Austen's brother Edward and he was a Jane Austen Historian. He was always told growing up that this portrait was of Jane.

This fact was disputed because of the dress, time and beauty of the subject. In Russia where Ozias Humphry, the artist was from they were already sporting this style. It is said she would have been only 13, but she would have been closer to 14 or 15. Which might be hard for those of us living in the modern age to understand, but that would have made her of a marriageable age. Wealthier family members would often pay for portraits to increase the marriage ability of young ladies. It was desirable to promote good marriages to respectable, independent young gentlemen. It is believed that Francis Austen a wealthy Lawyer and Jane's great-uncle commissioned this piece for that very reason. He might have had a portrait of Cassandra Austen painted as well.

The painting seems not to have been lost in time either, there is a lineage from who the painting was left to after Jane's death and during her life. The painting was giving to Colonel Thomas Austen of Sevenoaks, Franis's grandson and Jane's cousin. It was then willed to Mrs. Elizabeth Harding-Newman as distant relative and a great admirer of Jane's novels. This painting continued being passed from one family member to another for several years, until 1884 when it was used as the frontispiece to the first collection of Jane's published letters.

Engraving of Jane based on Cassandra's watercolor

This more than fair engraving of Jane Austen, created for book of Jane Austen's letters was actually based on the watercolor portrait done by Jane's older and only sister. There was an earlier version of this engraving, however her family said that the eyes were made far too large and it had to be redone. This was said to be far better, even though it was not perfect.

This is better than the watercolor since the watercolor has degraded over time, but I still think it is a bit off and doesn't look real to me. The only thing that looks natural is her hair.

This engraving that is based on the watercolor by Cassandra Austen, is now the basis of many other copies. Many people of done their own black and white version of it. Many more have done remakes of Cassie's painting.

Watercolor said to be Jane by a friend

As to how plain Jane was, in her youth she was never described as being very plain. If you examine of the portraits, engravings, silhouettes and watercolors that were reportedly of Jane, you can see some distinct similarities. Jane was described as being tall, fashionable, and having dark hair and brown eyes. She also had a round face and a larger nose, which are all qualities that the Rice portrait possesses.

Cassandra's Watercolor

Cassandra Austen did a very unflattering portrait of Jane, but that was when she was 35, almost 20 years after the portrait was reportedly painted. She would have lost the first bloom of youth by then. I have respect for many artist. Cassandra had her strong points, but painting faces was never one of them. She did a very lovely portrait of Fanny Austen-Leigh from behind that was really quite lovely. She also did portraits of English royal figures for a short book her sister wrote as a teenager. The book was a History of England, but the illustrations weren't wonderful.

We may never know what Jane really looked like, though I believe as her family did as far back as the year she died, that this is a portrait of a young Jane Austen.

Duel Debate Module


Jane Austen's silhouette

This is believed to be by Jane Austen herself, many times woman would do there own. It is also possible that her sister did this one as well.

Yet another unseen portrait

This silhouette is of Cassandra Austen.

It is assumed that Cassandra Austen herself did this piece of art, it was common at the time for woman to do their own silhouettes.

Jane Austen's Portrait Poll - This is a picture I took.

The painting is by Sophie Anderson an English woman who became an American painter.


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