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Jane Austen

Jane Austen (1775–1817)
Steel engraving after a sketch by Cassandra Austen; evidently executed as a frontispiece portrait for James Edward Austen-Leigh's biography of Austen entitled A Memoir of Jane Austen
London: Richard Bentley, 1870
Oval image: 120 x 96 mm
Purchased by J. P. Morgan, Jr., 1925; MA 1034.12
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The only life portraits of Jane Austen are two sketches by her sister Cassandra from ca. 1804 and ca. 1810. The later and more famous portrait, an unsigned pencil and watercolor sketch of a hard-set and severe-looking Jane Austen, is now in the National Portrait Gallery, London. J. E. Austen-Leigh commissioned James Andrews to adapt Cassandra's sketch for his Memoir. Andrews's anachronistic watercolor drawing changed Austen's attitude and features, essentially making a more presentable image of the writer for the Victorian reading public. This steel engraving of Andrews's watercolor made Austen's eyes look even larger and milder and her expression more gentle. Austen's niece Cassy Esten Austen commented that this engraving shows "a very pleasing, sweet face, — tho', I confess, to not thinking it much like the original."

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.