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Jane Austen News – Issue 151

The Jane Austen News and a new note

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 


Note Discovery Proves Jane Austen Portrait Authentic? 

The portrait opposite has to be one of the most controversial images of Jane Austen that there is.

It’s known as the Rice Portrait, and for years the Rice family who own the portrait have been fighting to prove that it is in fact a portrait of a young Jane Austen. Now, an overlooked note has come to light which may help to prove once and for all in the Rice family’s favour that the portrait is a genuine original portrait of Jane.

Of the Rice Portrait, the Rices have always explained that it was commissioned from the portrait painter Ozias Humphry in 1788, when 12-year-old Jane and her sister Cassandra were taken to visit their great-uncle Francis in Kent. According to the Rice family, Humphry’s 1788 accounts (held at the British Library) show a bill to Francis Austen for 13 guineas. However, experts in the art world, especially some of those at the National Portrait Gallery, say that it could not be of Austen. They have said that the style of the dress dates it to later than 1800.

The unsigned note which has recently be rediscovered, and which helps to support the Rice family’s claim of authenticity, is believed to have been written by Jane Austen’s great-niece Fanny Caroline Lefroy. Kept in Austen’s writing desk, it had been overlooked, said John Nettlefold, son of the painting’s owner Anne Rice, until its current owner noticed the small brown envelope containing it was marked “history of the portrait of Jane Austen”.

The note reads as follows:

“The history of the portrait of Jane Austen now in the possession of Morland Rice her Gt nephew. Old Dr Newman, fellow of Magdalen years ago told him that he had a portrait of Jane Austen the novelist, that had been in his family many years. He stated that it was done at Bath when she was about 15 & he promised to leave him (Morland Rice) the picture.

A few months before Dr Newman died, he wrote to a friend of his (a Dr Bloxam) sending him a picture as a farewell present & added ‘I have another picture that I wish to go to your neighbour Morland Rice. This a portrait of Jane Austen the novelist by Zoffany. Her picture was given to my step-mother by her friend Colonel Austen of Kippendon [sic], Kent because she was a great admirer of her works.’”

The note names the artist of the painting as being Johann Zoffany, to whom the painting has been attributed in the past. The note is unsigned, but after looking at it next to other documents held in the Hampshire Record Office, the Rices and independent scholar Kelly M McDonald (who is researching the letters and diaries of Emma Austen-Leigh, who was the wife of Jane Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh) are sure it is written by Fanny Caroline Lefroy.

John Nettlefold said that the letter “is written before there was any kind of issue. The problems only started in the 1930s … Unfortunately, there was then an institutional enmity towards it and it just got worse and worse.” He says that the letter is enough evidence to officially establish the painting as being an authentic portrait of Jane Austen.

So what next? Going forward, the Rice family wish to sell the portrait once/if it is officially certified as being of Austen. The family hopes that the portrait will come to be loves by Jane Austen fans and scholars worldwide.

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Jane Austen News – Issue 64

The Jane Austen News has mail!

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

 Jane Austen Inspired Anti-Bullying Campaign 

Recently we had a nice surprise in the post: a collection of handmade letters from students of a language school in Greece, who made them as part of an anti-bullying campaign and as their way of honouring the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death.

The overall campaign is called ‘Keep Smiling: from children to children’ and the project was done for Valentine’s Day (they arrived late).

The children named their card and letter collection ‘Jane Austen v Bullies’. All the students range in age from juniors to teenagers, and they participated whilst being inspired by Jane’s quotes and becoming familiar with her life and works.

They want us to keep the cards “as a token of appreciation for the work we do in honour of a literary giant”, which we thought was such an incredibly kind gesture, and we loved reading them all so we thought you might too!


Win A Free Dinner With Darcy and Lizzy in Woking

The Lightbox, a charity-run cultural space, gallery and museum in Woking, Surrey in England, has its tenth anniversary this year, and so to celebrate this milestone The Lightbox are holding their first Lightbox Literary Festival (from Thursday 20th April – Sunday 23rd April). We mention this as, since this year is not only the tenth anniversary of the opening of The Lightbox but also the bicentenary of Jane’s death, The Lightbox is holding a specifically Austen-themed event.

For the event, named Jane Austen 200th Anniversary, The Lightbox’s resident chef will create a Regency inspired menu just for the evening. Three indulgent courses will include Georgian-age gems like Black Butter, Mrs Martin’s mashed turnips and Regency roasted pork & apples. Guests will be invited to sample several dishes from the banquet table.

Then, after dinner, guests will round off the themed evening with a screening of the 2005 film version of Pride & Prejudice, and every guest will leave with a Regency-inspired goody bag filled with a Jane Austen novel, Regency recipes and other literary goodies. The event takes place on Friday the 21st of April at 7:00pm and tickets cost £49.

However – on our Facebook page we’re currently running a competition which is offering one lucky winner two free tickets to the event. You can enter via our competition post here.

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 64

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Jane Austen News – Issue 47

The Jane Austen News and a new noteWhat’s the Jane Austen News this week?   Rare Portrait of Jane Austen Goes on Display Members of The Jane Austen Cambridge Group enjoyed a private viewing of an oil painting of Jane Austen, the ‘Rice Portrait’, at Queens’ College on Saturday (December 10) before the group’s annual lunch. They were also treated to a talk on the portrait’s origins and significance by researcher Ellie Bennett. For the last ten years the group has celebrated Austen’s birthday with an annual lunch or dinner as near to December 16th, Jane Austen’s birthday, as possible. This year they had a special treat when the famous Rice Portrait was brought out of a vault in Switzerland for the occasion by owner Anne Rice and her son John. (Anne’s husband, the late Henry Rice, was a descendent of the Austen family, who died on July 18, 1817 and the portrait was passed down to him from the Austen family as part of the estate.) There is some controversy around the portrait, as the National Portrait Gallery doesn’t believe the portrait is of Jane Austen, whereas other experts definitely think it is. The portrait was painted by Ozias Humphry in 1788 or 1789, and it is thought to be of Jane Austen at the age of 13. It’s stunning. When you’re standing in front of it, the twinkle in her left eye. It’s like she’s looking at you. It’s quite incredible, you can’t see it and not be moved by it. Vicki Smith, joint secretary of The Jane Austen (more…)
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George Stubbs

George Stubbs (25 August 1724 – 10 July 1806) was an English painter, best known for his paintings of horses. Stubbs was born in Liverpool, the son of a currier and leather merchant. Information on his life up to age thirty-five is sparse, relying almost entirely on notes made by fellow artist Ozias Humphry (himself famous for his portrait of Edward Austen-Leigh, as well as the Rice Portrait) towards the end of Stubbs’s life. Stubbs worked at his father’s trade until he was 15 or 16, and after his father’s death in 1741 was briefly apprenticed to a Lancashire painter and engraver named Hamlet Winstanley. He soon left as he objected to the work of copying to which he was set. Thereafter as an artist he was self-taught. In the 1740s he worked as a portrait painter in the North of England and from about 1745 to 1751 he studied human anatomy at York County Hospital. He had had a passion for anatomy from his childhood, and one of his earliest surviving works is a set of illustrations for a textbook on midwifery which was published in 1751. In 1754 Stubbs visited Italy. Forty years later he told Ozias Humphry that his motive for going to Italy was, “to convince himself that nature was and is always superior to art whether Greek or Roman, and having renewed this conviction he immediately resolved upon returning home”. In 1756 he rented a farmhouse in the village of Horkstow, Lincolnshire, and spent 18 (more…)
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Searching for Captain Wentworth: A Review

  For those who love, time does not exist   Searching for Captain Wentworth is unlike any Jane Austen inspired novel I’ve ever read. I suspect it’s unlike any Jane Austen novel ever written! Part love story, part time travel fantasy, part Austen biography, it’s all about the author’s (Jane Odiwe) love for Jane Austen and the city of Bath, her ‘Fairyland’ city. Reading it (in 24 hours! I couldn’t put it down!) was like taking a walk with friends through old, familiar places. Jane’s use of Bath (both in the present and during the Regency) and Lyme, coupled with her deft weaving of historical fact and Austen lore, Austen novels (especially Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion) and films made for a book that felt like there was a cameo appearance on every page. It is truly a book written by someone who knows Austen’s life, novels and films inside out, and though any and all might enjoy the wonderful story she has crafted, for those in the “know”, Easter eggs abound, almost like the many inside jokes, shared by the Austen family, that made their way into Jane Austen’s writing. Jane Odiwe’s descriptions of Bath, both past and present, make the city come alive, reviving happy memories for those who have visited the beautiful white limestone city, and painting a vivid tour of city highlights and must visit stops for anyone contemplating a visit. Equally compelling are the settings in Lyme Regis, from Cobb to country house (more…)
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The Rice Portrait

In the gallery there were many family portraits, but they could have little to fix the attention of a stranger. Elizabeth walked on in quest of the only face whose features would be known to her. -Pride and Prejudice For years there has been (some say, unnecessary) controversy over a charming portrait of an unnamed girl in white- clearly she is a member of the Austen family…but is she THE Austen we all so want her to be? With few known likenesses of Jane Austen to compare this too, it seems reasonable to accept the word of family members who knew Jane Austen—yet there are those—costume historians, authors, and even the head of the National Portrait Gallery (though his predecessors believed it to be authentic) who refuse to accept the “Rice Portrait” as it is called, as a genuine article. The current owners of the portrait, the Rice Family, descendants of Jane’s brother Francis, firmly believe the portrait to be genuine and have spent the last several years tracing the history (provenance) of this portrait, discovering, along the way, clues that would surely have sent Sherlock Holmes hard fast on the trail of this mystery. Here, in her own words, is the history of the Rice Portrait, by it’s owner, Anne Rice: This story, and the portrait of Jane Austen started in the summer of 1788 when George Austen took his wife, and his two young daughters, Cassandra, aged 15, and Jane aged not quite 13 years old to visit (more…)
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Ozias Humphrey (1742-1810)

Ozias Humphrey (8 September 1742 – 9 March 1810) was a leading English painter of portrait miniatures, later oils and pastels, of the 18th century. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1791, and in 1792 he was appointed Portrait Painter in Crayons to the King (i.e. pastels). Born and schooled in Honiton, Devon, Ozias Humphrey was attracted by the gallery of casts opened by the Duke of Richmond and came to London to study art at Shipley’s school. He also studied art in Bath (under Samuel Collins, taking over his practice in 1762); in Bath, he lodged with Thomas Linley. As a young artist, his talent was encouraged by Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds, among others. His problems with his sight, the result of a fall from his horse in the early 1770s, which ultimately led to blindness, forced him to give up miniature painting and paint larger works in oils and pastel. Ozias Humphrey travelled to Italy in 1773 with his great friend George Romney, stopping en route at Knole, near Sevenoaks in Kent, where the Duke of Dorset commissioned several works from him. His stay in Italy lasted until 1777. On his return, his numerous subjects included George Stubbs (1777), fellow academician Dominic Serres, and the chemist Joseph Priestley. He compiled a fifty-page manuscript, A Memoir of George Stubbs, based on what Stubbs had related to him; it is the only contemporary biography of the “Painter of the English Enlightenment”. This was edited and privately (more…)
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