Austen's readers have long wished for a good picture of their favorite author.
The only authenticated picture of Jane Austen is a small pencil and watercolor sketch made by her sister, Cassandra, on display in the National Portrait Gallery in London. Cassandra also painted a watercolor of her in a blue dress with her face hidden by a bonnet.
Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh commissioned a watercolor by James Andrews, based on Cassandra’s drawing, to illustrate his biography of his aunt, A Memoir of Jane Austen, published in 1870. The Memoir included an engraving of Andrews’s watercolor, which is often reproduced as Jane Austen’s portrait. In recent years other depictions have been advanced as portraits, with each candidate attracting both passionate advocates and doubting critics.
To judge for yourself whether a “good picture” has finally been found, browse the portrait gallery below and read the collected essays and articles.
To view larger versions of these portraits, click on the thumbnail images.
More on the Portraits and Possible Portraits
The Rice Portrait: Truths Not Theories, by Deirdre Le Faye. Persuasions On-Line 41.1 (Win. 2020).
Pride and Prejudice