The portrait of Jane Austen by James Andrews that will appear on the new £10 note in 2017 was offered by Sotheby’s as the star turn of their traditional end-of-year English literature and history sale.
Regarded as one of the pictures with the closest connection to
the novelist that exists, the posthumously painted portrait has
rarely been on public display but remained in the family since it
was commissioned for the first full-length biography of the
Estimated at £150,000-200,000, it sold for a slightly
disappointing £135,000. It was knocked down to an anonymous
collector, although it has not yet become clear whether the buyer
was from the UK or overseas.
The oval watercolour which measured just 5.5 x 4in (14 x 10cm)
was executed from a crude sketch fifty years after her death and so
there was some debate as to the extent of its likeness to the
The Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire, issued a
statement saying it did not bid having recently raised funds to buy
a ring that
belonged to the novelist for £150,000 in September. The
statement reads: "Because the sale comes hard on the heels of our
successful campaign to secure Jane Austen's turquoise ring, we are
not in a position at the moment to bid the high price likely to
secure the portrait for our collection and for the nation. However,
we watch the outcome with close attention."
The work itself was based on the only confirmed portrait of Jane
made during her lifetime, a study by her sister Cassandra that now
hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, and was made in 1869 to
accompany the affectionate memoir of his aunt written by the Rev.
James Edward Austen-Leigh.
He felt that that Cassandra's likeness did not really do Jane
justice, and so asked Andrews, a local Maidenhead artist, to
produce something that combined both that likeness and something of
his own very distinct memories.
In his Memoir of Jane Austen, first published in
December 1869, Austen-Leigh wrote: "In person she was very
attractive, her figure was rather tall and slender, her step light
and firm, and her whole appearance expressive of health and
animation. In complexion she was a clear brunette with a rich
colour; she had full round cheeks, with mouth and nose small and
well formed, bright hazel eyes, and brown hair forming natural
curls close round her face..."
Austen-Leigh also remarks on her habit, shared with Cassandra,
of never being seen without a cap - a "garb of middle age [adopted]
earlier than their years or looks required".
Pin marks on the watercolour match similar marks on the
Cassandra sketch, suggesting that the latter was traced and then
transferred to card by Andrews for the version that in stipple
engraved form appeared as a frontispiece to the Memoir.
The Hampshire museum stated that the Andrews Portrait "quickly
became associated with a view of the novelist as representative of
home and hearth and domestic values. It is a view that contributed,
among other things, to the foundation in 1948 of Jane Austen's
House Museum in her former home here in Chawton, Hampshire.
"The Andrews Portrait provides a representation of Jane Austen
that remains alive in the popular imagination as a permanent aspect
of her enduring appeal."
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