James Andrews, Jane Austen, watercolour over pencil, 1869 | Photo © Sotheby's

James Andrews, Jane Austen, watercolour over pencil, 1869 | Photo © Sotheby’s

On 10th December 2013, Sotheby’s London will auction the iconic James Andrews’ portrait of Jane Austen. The watercolour has rarely been seen in public and has remained in the Austen family since it was created.

Dr Gabriel Heaton, Specialist in Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts Department said: “Seeing the most famous image of Jane Austen, for the first time, in a domestic sitting room was an astonishing experience. This delicate watercolour is so much more than a piece of literary portraiture: it is part of our cultural history. The painting was commissioned for the first full-length biography of Austen, which was crucial in transforming her from a novelist into a national figure. The portrait gave readers an image with which they could identify and which even seemed to embody the character of her work. This is the most important likeness of Jane Austen ever likely to appear on the open market.”

The portrait was originally commissioned by Jane Austen’s nephew, Rev James Edward Austen-Leigh, in 1869 to accompany his biography of the author. It was based on the only confirmed portrait of Austen made during her lifetime by her sister Cassandra. However Austen-Leigh did not think his aunt’s depiction was a true likeness, so he commissioned Maidenhead artist James Andrews to create a more “satisfying version” based on his own memories. The portrait has been repeatedly reproduced and graces many Jane Austen book covers.

The portrait is estimated to fetch between £150,000-200,000, although I would hardly be surprised if it went well over the estimate.  A ring belonging to Jane Austen was sold for £157,740 in a bidding war between singer Kelly Clarkson and the Jane Austen House Museum.

Read more at artdaily.com


About The Author

Olga Hughes is currently pre-occupied with fairy tales, fantasy, misanthropy, medieval history and the long eighteenth century. She has a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Victorian College of the Arts and is currently majoring in Literature and History at Deakin. She has contributed to websites such as History behind Game of Thrones, The Anne Boleyn Files and The Tudor Society.