There is a unique chance to see the only widely accepted depiction of Jane Austen (17751718) outside London, when the sketch of the novelist by her sister Cassandra is generously lent to the Holburne Museum
by the National Portrait Gallery.
Jane Austen is one of the most beloved writers in English literature, responsible for classics such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. A resident of Bath between 1801 and 1806, she lived across the road from the Holburne at 4 Sydney Place from 1801 until 1804. During this time, she frequently visited Sydney Gardens and attended the public breakfasts and evening galas.
This sketch by her sister Cassandra is the only surviving memento of Austens features and the sole widely accepted depiction of her appearance. Although the drawing is undated and unrecorded in the correspondence between the sisters, the sitters age and attire suggest a date of around 1810.
As the novelists reputation grew after her death, the lack of a reliable portrait became increasingly challenging. In the late 19th century this sketch was turned into an engraving that, according to Austens niece Caroline, depicted a pleasing countenance, though the general resemblance is not strong.
This prettified representation became the accepted image of the author and, most recently, provided the basis for the £10 English note. Today, perhaps fittingly, these idealised features are instantly associated with an author whose personal life remains partially as elusive as her image.
The work is rarely lent as it is extremely delicate and light-sensitive, so this is a unique chance to see it outside of London.
The portrait will be in Bath at the same time as the annual, hugely popular Jane Austen Festival (10-19 September).
Curator Monserrat Pis Marcos says: We are delighted to show this fragile and iconic portrait of one of the most important figures in English literature, and one of Baths most famous residents, at the Holburne a building she knew and mentioned in her correspondence. We very much hope Miss Austen will enjoy her summer sojourn in our Georgian galleries.
Chris Stephens, Director of the Holburne Museum says: Jane Austen is part of the Holburnes history. The Museum is housed in the old entrance to the Sydney Pleasure Gardens where Austen liked to take breakfast and to enjoy fireworks and concerts while she lived across the road. I am delighted to bring her portrait back to the place she seems to have enjoyed more than any other in Bath, and I am deeply grateful to our friends at the National Portrait Gallery for making this homecoming possible.