A Portrait of Jane (Austen)

Today is the 235th birthday of British writer Jane Austen b.1775 – 1817.  Austen is one of  the most well-known  female author of  English Literature.  Her shrewd observations, wry wit and social commentary give us an insight into Georgian society.  She came from a  close large  consisting of Father George Austen, mother Cassandra Leigh and six brothers and one sister, Cassandra b. 1873.  Much has been written about the author and her life on the fabulous Pemberley website

Jane Austen 1870 1869 engraving showing an idealized, young Jane Austen, based on a sketch by Cassandra Austen

 Austen started writing when she was young but it wasn’t until 1811 that she achieved any success (Sense and Sensibility) this was followed by perhaps her most popular novel Pride and Prejudice1813, then Mansfield Park 1814.  Emma followed in 1816 and this was followed by Northanger Abbey and Persuasion which were both published posthumously in 1818.  She began another book Sanditon but died before it was finished.

As to my aunt’s personal appearance, hers was the first face I can remember thinking pretty. Her face was rather round than long, she had a bright, but not a pink colour­ a clear brown complexion, and very good hazel eyes. Her hair, a darkish brown, curled naturally, it was in short curls around her face. She always wore a cap.”
Recollections of Aunt Jane by Caroline Austen

Cassandra drawing

It is impossible to really know exactly what Jane Austen looked like.  Etchings and paintings have all been based upon this rudimentary sketch by Cassandra the authors sister.  People who knew Jane are divided: some thought the sketch generally unlike her.  However, in 2002 Forensic artist Melissa Dring  attempted a definitive portrait of the author, which was unveiled at the Jane Austen centre in Bath, with this result:-

Jane Austen by Melissa Dring

In creating this work, Ms. Dring explains, “The natural starting point, then, had to be Cassandra’s sketch, which I reversed, as I decided to have Jane looking the other way, and also I needed to make her look a few years younger. Cassandra drew Jane at 35, and I had to make her aged 26-31, during her years in Bath. Above all, though, I wanted to bring out something of Jane’s lively and humorous character, so evident in her novels and all contemporary accounts of her. Cassandra’s drawing may have been quite like Jane physically, but has failed to catch her sparkle.”*

I suppose we’ll never know for sure what Jane Austen really looked like, but it’s fun to speculate 🙂

Meanwhile over on Bookstains – there are MORE Austen Celebrations plus a Poll!

Lots more portraits and info from here

Find out about Jane Austen the author here

Images from here here

video by ewell01 Thanks!

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13 Responses to “A Portrait of Jane (Austen)”

  1. […] and Prejudice is my very favorite (followed closely by Emma).  To celebrate her birthday see my Echostains which explores her portraits. Meanwhile over here at Bookstains,  here are two of my favorite […]

  2. What a lovely grouping of portraits of a great lady. Love the drawing her sister did. It spawned all these others? I think that is great! I have to chuckle a little, too. That last portrait isn’t sodifferent than all the others, to me. Good post, Lynda.

  3. Thanks Leslie! I do think the last one is extremely similiar to the Cassandra’s drawing – though a little jollier. Tthis one looks a bit mischievous with a wicked sense of humour:-D I’d like to think Jane Austen looked like that. Plus Cassandra was thought to be a pretty good artist, so the drawings probably not too far away from the original.

  4. artistatexit0 Says:

    Interesting that all these very different portraits may represent the same person! Did Jane do any visual art herself?

    Since I missed the Munch post before comments were closed… it is believed that Munch’s inspiration for the “Scream” was based on viewing a recently discovered Incan mummy from Peru that was on public display. So the indigenous person connections may be right!

    • I don’t think she did – if she did a little sketching and all young ladies did that, I’ve never seen any evidence of it. I’ve not heard of the Incan mummy connection only the asylum one. I’ve watched programmes about them though, and can see what you mean where you’re coming from there 🙂

  5. All these “Janes”–Annyone have any thoughths on that movie “Becoming Jane Austen”?

    • Yes – didn’t like it at all. Much was made of a ‘romance’ that in reality was just a crush. I hate this beefing up and in some cases, downright fantasy just to make a story.
      Also incandescent about the kiss, the farm, and the hidious drivel which was P and P starring Keira Knightly speaking like Jennifer Ehle. Sadly, some who have never read the book will think that they know the story of Pride and Prejudice – and it couldn’t be more from the truth:-(

  6. Blimey, she has a lot of admirers doesn’t she.
    Perhaps it’s that look of innocence that she has. lol
    .
    Ps, i wanted to leave a comment of munch’y
    still i’d probably be repeasted thousands of other peoples words across the world.
    You know, that he is a legend.

    • Yes, theres not many women who do not admire her
      writing:-)
      I will convey your sentiments to Munchy K:-D I closed that thread by mistake, I meant it for another!

  7. dear lynda,
    i have not read much of her work, but i watched them on movies. i guess it is better to start off reading them straight from the book. what a nice tribute you have done for her. happy holidays.

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