Biographer Discovers Previously Unpublished Portrait Of Jane Austen

Dr. Paula Byrne, a biographer investigating the life of famed author Jane Austen has unearthed a previously undiscovered photo of the author which depicts a grumpy looking Austen at the height of her own power.

Before this new sketch was unearthed only two other portraits were known to exist, an 1810 sketch by her sister Cassandra and an 1870 adaption of that same sketch.

The sketch was acquired by Byrne’s husband Jonathan Bate, a Shakespeare scholar and she says the photograph immediately struck her as a possible Austen match.

The portrait was drawn in graphite on vellum and was housed in a private auction for years before being listed as an “imaginary portrait” of Jane Austen.

Dr. Byrne tells the Guardian:

“When my husband bought it he thought it was a reasonable portrait of a nice lady writer, but I instantly had a visceral reaction to it. I thought it looks like her family. I recognized the Austen nose, to be honest, I thought it was so striking, so familiar.”

The photograph has been dated to the early 19th century and Austen did not become famous until 1870, 50 years after her death, a date that would fit perfectly inside the authors lifespan.

In the meantime Byrne’s documentary Jane Austen: The Unseen Portrait?, will air in the UK on the BBC2 on Boxing Day.