My full name is Anne Winston Rice and my late husband, Henry Rice, owned the portrait of Jane Austen, his ancestress by family descent. He died in 2010, we were married for 35 years and I share his belief in the authenticity of the portrait. I am setting up this website to use the Internet to give information about the portrait in a way which has not been possible for the Rice family before. Literally acres of print have been written about this painting, positions around it have become entrenched and passions have run high. I know that by making the full story of the picture public and by addressing all the concerns that have accumulated around it, I shall set the record straight.
When my husband died and before when he was ill, my eldest brother, Robin
Roberts offered to help me. He warned me that should he at any time during
his investigations discover a single thing about the portrait which he could not
endorse, he would be unable to continue with his research. I totally agreed with
these feelings, and on that basis, we have just completed three years of new
research which I will now share with you on this website.
The areas we wish to cover in depth are as follows:
The provenance and known history of the Portrait, including information,
and family letters which refer to it, and its owners.
The key pieces of documentary and primary evidence of the truth of the
painting, given by family members, and those family members’
relationships to each other.
We have done a year’s research on the methods used by Ozias Humphry to sign his works, on his life and his physical whereabouts in relation to this painting. Also on other pictures, and his miniatures of the Austen family, and their close acquaintances. I will publish all of this with pictorial evidence.
I will address all the concerns which people have had about this portrait. Firstly, the William Legg stamp on the reverse of the canvas, secondly the dress argument, thirdly the frame that the picture was in and fourthly, why the portrait hung at Kippington Park, near Knole at Sevenoaks in Kent and was never in Hampshire.
We have also discovered how the incorrect ‘Zoffany’ attribution came into being and I will show how this muddied the waters. Until then, no one had believed the painting to be anything other than ‘Jane Austen’ as the Rice family knew it to be. However, after this attribution was (correctly) questioned by Dr Chapman in the 40’s, it became ‘open season’ on the poor portrait.
I will also provide information about the interaction which the Rice family through the years, has had with the National Portrait Gallery.
We will publish rebuttals to all the above concerns and will also deal with Miss Deirdre Le Faye’s contribution to the debate.
The website will include a page for questions which I will answer. As I am nearly 76, I am not as familiar with computers as I should be, but my family are helping.
Finally, Ozias Humphry was fond of using allegorical symbols in his portraits. He had been much influenced by his travels in Italy with George Romney. There are some very interesting ones, which relate especially to Edward Austen Knight, Jane’s brother, and also to the Duke of Dorset’s family at Knole in Sevenoaks. This research has been particularly interesting and intriguing.