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The new Jane Austen Portrait by Melissa Dring

New Jane Austen portrait

The New Jane Austen Portrait using source material and forensic methods

Introduction:

Melissa Dring
Forensic Artist Melissa Dring

In 2001, Melissa Dring* was commissioned by David Baldock, the Director of the Jane Austen Centre, Bath, to produce a new portrait of the author, as she might have appeared during her time in Bath, 1801-06.

Combining the insights of the professional portrait painter with those of the police forensic artist, Melissa was uniquely qualified to accept this challenge.

David Baldock had heard of her work on a speculative likeness of the Venetian composer Antonio Vivaldi. A film producer, wanting a likeness to use as a casting aid for a proposed film biography of the composer, and feeling it was a job for a forensic artist, had approached Scotland Yard, who recommended Melissa.

The difficulty with both commissions was their shared lack of reliable contemporary portraiture, although a wealth of written eye-witness accounts survive in both cases.

Melissa Takes up the story…

My new speculative likeness of Jane Austen fills the gap left by the paucity of authenticated representations of the author. As I hope it will come to be accepted as a good portrait of her, despite being made 185 years after her death, I will describe the research and working methods I used, so that it can be seen how it is based almost entirely on solid (more…)

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Governor Phillip meets Jane Austen

Captain (later Admiral) Arthur Phillip RN (11 October 1738 – 31 August 1814) was the first Governor of New South Wales.
Captain (later Admiral) Arthur Phillip RN (11 October 1738 – 31 August 1814) was the first Governor of New South Wales.
Captain (later Admiral) Arthur Phillip RN (11 October 1738 – 31 August 1814) was the first Governor of New South Wales.

By Heather Clarke
Did Arthur Phillip meet Jane Austen in Bath?  It is quite possible.

Phillip retired to Bath in 1793 to recover his health after five years as the governor of the colony of New South Wales.  While on occasions he was obliged to live elsewhere, the elegant city of Bath continued to be his favoured place of residence for the rest his life.

Jane Austen first visited Bath in 1797 and dwelt there with her family between 1801 and 1806.

Jane loved dancing and attended balls in many places across the south of England: – Basingstoke, Deal, Lyme, Canterbury, Ashford, Faversham and Southampton. She specifically mentioned the annual ball hosted by the Dorchesters of Kempshott Park to which all their Hampshire neighbours were invited (1799), the Earl and Countess of Portsmouth’s ball (1800), and a ball in Southampton (1808). All of her novels feature balls or dancing.
Jane loved dancing and attended balls in many places across the south of England: – Basingstoke, Deal, Lyme, Canterbury, Ashford, Faversham and Southampton. She specifically mentioned the annual ball hosted by the Dorchesters of Kempshott Park to which all their Hampshire neighbours were invited (1799), the Earl and Countess of Portsmouth’s ball (1800), and a ball in Southampton (1808). All of her novels feature balls or dancing.

Bath was at the cultural heart of Georgian and Regency society.  The most fashionable people flocked to Bath in the season to enjoy the curative powers of the mineral waters and to consort with the fine company gathered there.  Central to this were the splendid Assembly Rooms, “the most noble and elegant of any in the kingdom”2.  Together with card-playing and concert-going, dancing was a key element to the experience.  Dances were held every night, with at least two balls given each week during the season.  These enchanting affairs were presided over by a master of ceremonies with the strictest decorum; however, the dances themselves encouraged a certain degree of flirtation.  Balls began with minuets, followed by country dances, cotillions and reels.

Both Arthur Phillip and Jane Austen are known to have attended balls – did their paths cross?  They certainly would have danced the same fashionable dances of the season.  Every year collections of the latest dances were published; these invariably bore the inscription As they are performed at Court, Bath, and all Public Assemblies, highlighting the pre-eminence of Bath and the significance of dance in genteel society.

Jane, aged 21, visited Bath for the first time in 1797. She may have danced Captain Cook’s Country Dance from Corri, Dussek & Co’s Twenty-four New Country Dances for the Year 1797.
Jane, aged 21, visited Bath for the first time in 1797. She may have danced Captain Cook’s Country Dance from Corri, Dussek & Co’s
Twenty-four New Country Dances for the Year 1797.

Comparing the lives and places Arthur and Jane frequented, it is clear they both trod in the same places, moved in similar circles and perhaps had a number of mutual acquaintances.

Although Phillip was mostly not a permanent resident in Bath at the same time as Jane (1801-1806), he did spend a considerable amount of time there and upon retiring in 1805 purchased “a large and commodious house at No 19 Bennett Street”.  As befitted a person of Phillip’s standing, this was situated in one of the most prestigious areas of the city, a handsome new Georgian dwelling, just above the Assembly Rooms.

Continue reading Governor Phillip meets Jane Austen

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Jane Austen Waxwork

Jane Austen Waxwork

We had a great time unveiling our new Jane Austen waxwork to the assembled media folk on Wednesday 9th of July.

L to R. Andrea Galer, Mark Richards, David Baldock, Jane Austen and Melissa Dring
L to R. Andrea Galer, Mark Richards, David Baldock, Jane Austen and Melissa Dring

Reaction was overwhelmingly positive when the curtains were parted. The waxwork is now on public display. Developed from a forensic portrait of the author by Melissa Dring, the waxwork has been over 2 years in the making. Members of the team behind her creation, especially brought together for the project, were in attendance at the event, – the internationally-renowned sculptor, an FBI-trained forensic artist and a Bafta and Emmy award-winning costume designer. (See their biographies below) The novels of Jane Austen are known throughout the world, her heroes and heroines have been brought to life in many adaptations, and the industry which has built up around her name is significant. So whilst people happily associate Jane Austen’s characters with the actors who portray them, perhaps most famously Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, there remains a real desire to possess a likeness of the writer herself.

Uncovering the Real Jane Austen (taster) from Grace Productions on Vimeo.

The only verifiable image of Jane Austen is a (more…)

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Adrian Lukis Interview

Adrian Lukis

Elle Interviews Adrian Lukis

On a lovely sunny day, we were making the new Jane Austen Centre film with Adrian when during a break we took the opportunity to grab a few minutes to interview the ex Mr. Wickham.
You will see for yourself that Adrian is such a charming gentleman.

“I love playing cads. They’re more interesting and so many of them seem to have a special kind of power and aura about them.”
Adrian Lukis ought to know. With his dark good looks and easy charm, he has often been cast in the role of attractive rogue or upper-class bounder. “He has charm in spades,” wrote Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph in a 2000 review of Lukis’s performance of Beach Wedding at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton.

 

Mr Wickham

Adrian Lukis, born in 28th March 1957 in Birmingham, is an actor who has appeared regularly in British television drama since the late 1980s. He trained at Drama Studio London. His most recent notable appearances have been as Sergeant Douglas ‘Doug’ Wright in the Police drama series The Bill, and as Marc Thompson in the BBC legal drama Judge John Deed.

He was a regular, playing Dr David Shearer, in Peak Practice between 1997-99. He also played Mr. George Wickham in the BBC’s 1995 adaption of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Adrian had appeared in the ITV1 one-off drama Back Home and in the BBC rural drama series Down to Earth.
He had previously appeared in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (as Bennett in The Creeping Man), Maigret, Miss Marple and Prime Suspect. Adrian Lukis played Simon Avery in Silent Witness Series 15 Episode 2, Death Has No Dominion.

He is currently appearing as Carter in Bull at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

Lukis is descended from the Channel Islands archaeologist Frederick Lukis.

Continue reading Adrian Lukis Interview

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Cravats, Tail Coats and Breeches

lady and gent prom 3

Regency Dress for Gentlemen

Towards the end of the 18th Century the tail coat appeared: a style based on the English riding coat. This was made of good wool cloth and gradually became the fashionable garment for men in Europe and America.

Tail Coat The tail coat on display at the Centre is made from 100% English wool doeskin, and is fashioned after a style current about 1810. Notice how few seams there are – just one on each side of the centre back seam. A waist seam to give a better fit to the body was first seen about 1820 and the underarm seam appeared between 1820 and 1830. The tails of the coat at this time finished just above the knee and if you look carefully, you will find that each tail has a pocket concealed in its central seam.

The tailcoat was usually only partially lined and that lining was the same fabric as the body of the garment. The cloth was so tightly woven and heavily milled that most of the edges of the garment were left raw and finished with a row of hand stitching all the way around. Here it is possible to see this detail on close examination. This practice survives in top-quality tailoring with the “hand pricked” finish only on the lapels.

The waistcoat shown here is in a fancy fabric suitable for an evening occasion: for day wear, the fabric would be plainer and (more…)