According to The Guardian, an old portrait belonging to the Rice family, descendants of Jane Austen’s family, has finally been validated as that of the author at thirteen. It’s a lovely portrait, and she looks so sweet and pretty and exactly like one of the other portraits that I’ve seen. However, some doubts remain, and I don’t know if wishful thinking is at play here. Read the article and see for yourself. It looks very like the portrait I link to here, but not very like another candidate, in which Jane looks very stern and forbidding and has an entirely different nose and face. And it does look very like the portrait by Cassandra, her sister, found here:
From The Guardian:
Using digital photographic tools analysis has revealed writing on a long-disputed oil painting that its owners claim shows Jane Austen as a teenage girl. No other professional likeness of the writer exists.
The discovered words appear to include not only the novelist’s name, but also that of the suspected artist.
There are a couple of things — Jane Austen’s family, while respectable, were not rich. She did have wealthy relatives, and the portrait was supposedly made at her great-uncle’s house. How common was this? Did someone just say, hey we should have a formal portrait made of our young niece? Family history has long asserted that the portrait is of Jane, and while family lore is famously flexible (my brother in particular has never let the facts get in the way of a good anecdote), it seems this time the family is on to something.
I say it’s a portrait of the artist as a young woman, and another fascinating glimpse into the life of a genius.