The Jane Austen Centre claims to have drawn on forensic techniques and eye-witness accounts to create the closest ever likeness of the Pride and Prejudice novelist.
Their waxwork went on display at the centre in Bath on Wednesday morning. It has taken three years to create, with forensic artist Melissa Dring taking as her starting point the sketch done by Austen’s sister Cassandra in 1810, the only accepted portrait of the writer other than an 1870 adaptation of that picture. She then used contemporary eyewitness descriptions of the novelist to come up with her own likeness.
Austen’s nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh, described his aunt as “very attractive”. “Her figure was rather tall and slender, her step light and firm, and her whole appearance expressive of health and animation. In complexion she was a clear brunette with a rich colour; she had full round cheeks, with mouth and nose small and well-formed, bright hazel eyes, and brown hair forming natural curls close round her face,” he wrote in his memoir.
Caroline Austen, his sister, had it that “as to my Aunt’s personal appearance, hers was the first face that I can remember thinking pretty … Her face was rather round than long – she had a bright, but not pink colour – a clear brown complexion and very good hazle [sic] eyes … Her hair, a darkish brown, curled naturally – it was in short curls around her face.”
The Jane Austen Centre said its new waxwork had been “created by a specialist team using forensic techniques which draw on contemporary eye-witness accounts”, and that it is the closest “anyone has come to the real Jane Austen for 200 years”, reported the BBC.
“[Cassandra’s portrait] does make it look like she’s been sucking lemons,” Dring told the BBC. “She has a somewhat sour and dour expression. But we know from all accounts of her, she was very lively, very great fun to be with and a mischievous and witty person.”
Dring said the new statue was “pretty much like her”. “She came from a large … family and they all seemed to share the long nose, the bright sparkly brown eyes and curly brown hair,” she said. “And these characteristics come through the generations.”
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