Remembering Jane on her birthday today, she will always be on the list of people I wish I could have met. If only so many of her letters hadn’t been destroyed, we would have a much better idea of what she was really like. We imagine what she looked like but now we can come closer than that. When in Bath, I couldn’t wait to see the new waxwork figure of Jane Austen.
Commissioned by the Jane Austen Centre to paint a new portrait, the forensic artist Melissa Dring spent a year studying all the descriptive passages about Jane Austen in letters and notes of the time, before doing her painting. Then the work passed to some more experts in their fields: the portrait sculptor Mark Richards who created the face and more, Nell Clarke who created the hair and make-up and Anthea Galer who created the costume. On the website there is a detailed description of the whole journey and a short four minute vimeo shows the waxwork figure taking shape.
When you visit the Jane Austen Centre to do the tour and turn the corner and see her standing there it is quite moving. To me, it is totally believable that ‘our Jane’ could have looked like this. The drawing by Cassandra has never rung true to me, as her Jane looked too sweet and not very bright. As we all know Jane Austen was highly intelligent, and Melissa’s painting, with her sparkling eyes, is as I have imagined her to be.
It was such a delight to see.