The New Jane Austen Portrait using source material and forensic methods Introduction: 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 fact, and how little guesswork was needed. There is a tiny pencil and watercolour sketch of her, in the National Portrait Gallery in London, by (more…)
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