The Rice Portrait of Jane Austen
A Literary Portrait Re-instated
In support of this theory she also published three miniatures which she states
categorically are of Jane, Elizabeth, and Frances Motley Austen, Jane Austen’s
second cousins and a fourth miniature of ‘a young girl holding a bird cage’ which
she says is of ‘Mary Anne Campion’.
At the time this article was written we did not take it seriously; there is no
likeness whatsoever between our painting of Jane and of ‘Mary Anne Campion’.
Both pictures are reproduced below. However it seems that other people did
believe Miss Le Faye, so we asked her for the whereabouts of these miniatures
so we could check her information. This on five separate occasions she refused
to give to us, or to journalists, who were also curious.
However, last month, May 2011, we finally discovered the miniatures, owned by
distant Austen cousins of my late husband’s, who gave us, and a family friend,
Jane Odiwe, complete access to them, allowing us to examine and photograph
them at leisure.
These miniatures had been given back to the father of the present owners by a
cousin who was emigrating to France in the 1950s. Her name was Charlotte
Marianne Harrison; and she was the last in the line of the Kippington Austens.
Her only son had been killed in the war, and having a strong sense of family, she
wished her collection of family miniatures to remain in England. We were able to see all the correspondence relating to this gift, and also Mrs Harrison’s notes, of whom she believed these miniatures to be.
executed by Ozias Humphry R.A in 1788
A fascinating portrait, its provenance and history...
In 1996, Miss Deirdre Le Faye published an article in the ‘Book Collector’ in which she states her opinion that the Rice portrait of Jane Austen by Ozias Humphry R.A is not of the novelist, but of a distant cousin of hers, by name ‘Mary Anne Campion’. She also announced that my late husband's portrait was painted by the Reverend Matthew William Peters. 1742-1814.
The miniature which Miss Le Faye states is ‘Mary Anne Campion’ was described by Mrs Harrison only as ‘A little girl holding a birdcage’. She also says her dress is an ‘almost exact’
copy of the Rice portrait’s. This statement is incorrect, Jane’s dress is frilled around the neckline, ‘Mary Anne Campion’s’ dress is plain. Having fitted names, and dates to these miniatures, Miss Le Faye published them. They could be any members of the extended
Austen family. Francis Lucius Austen had two daughters, Jane Campion nine children; there
are a great many possibilities. The only thing that is certain is that they were Austen family miniatures.
Our thanks to the Tate Gallery for allowing us to use this image, where the original may be seen.
“Jane Austen’s Regency World” In the May/June 2010 edition.
My husband, Henry Rice died in January 2010. Four months later, Miss Le Faye published the letter pictured left. Her “Mary Anne Campion” attribution is incorrect. (See above article).
The National Portrait Gallery have been informed that another William Legg existed, born in 1740, and the uncle of the two Leggs that Mr Jacob Simon believed were responsible for the canvas mark “Wm Legg, High Holbourn Linen” on the reverse of the canvas of the Rice portrait. The later stamp reads “W and J Legg, High Holborn, Linen”. Mr Robin Roberts is responsible, with the College of Arms, for this new research.
Nor do “all the most eminent and experienced costume historians unanimously agree that the child’s dress is clearly 1800-1810”. (See earlier article on this website by Ted and Lillian Williams who have amassed the greatest 18th Century dress collection in the world). The date 1788 has been discovered on the canvas of the Rice portrait.
Finally, I would like to add that I found Miss Le Faye’s attack on my late husband’s obituary, exceedingly distasteful.
Anne Rice, June 2011.
Only one of the five miniatures of women we examined had any identification at all. The eldest Motley-Austen daughter, Jane, who married William Campion of Danny, had a slip of paper inserted in the reverse of the miniature, which read, ‘Jane Austen, who married William Campion’. The other three women and the child had no identification on them, or in them, only the date, 1802, on one unused by Le Faye. In the child’s case, a piece of paper in the reverse gave W.S Lethbridge’s name, and an address in the Strand, which was not his studio (although he did work from the Strand). Miss Le Faye states that all these miniatures are by Lethbridge. We could find no evidence for this, no signature of any artist and no dates.
Miss Le Faye claims that Mrs Motley-Austen ‘Mary Anne’s grandmother was so disappointed with ‘Lethbridge’s miniature of her granddaughter that she employed the Rev. Matthew William Peters to ‘pretty her up’ in a large painting in oils, e.g. The Rice portrait. ‘Mary Anne’ does have an unfortunate receding chin, but neither in the many descriptions of Jane Austen, or in Cassandra’s sketch of her in the NPG, does this defect become apparent. The Rev. Peters was chiefly a pastellist (see Neil Jaffares, Dictionary of pastellists before 1800). He was also known for his somewhat risqué paintings of young women, and resigned from the Royal Academy in 1790, officially painting only ‘religious and historical paintings’ after this date. Surely an odd choice for a loving grandmother to paint her young granddaughter? Peters died in 1814, having officially given up painting in 1800.
Miss Le Faye suggests that Colonel Thomas Austen gave away a portrait of his niece ‘Mary Anne Campion’ to two people who would not have known the difference, and that Colonel Thomas whose great friend was Edward Austen Knight (see previous provenance), himself may have believed it to be Jane Austen, his second cousin. This suggestion is risible (see professor Claudia Johnson’s short article on the website.) His friend Col Harding Newman is said to have proposed to Jane, and his bride Elizabeth Hall also knew the family.
Miss Le Faye asserts that Sir Henry Hake, the director of the NPG in the 1930s held the opinion that ‘the Rice portrait’ was not Jane Austen. This is incorrect; he tried to buy it from the Rice family. (See letters on website).
Ozias Humphry was not just ‘an artist working in Kent in the 1780s’. He was a favoured artist of the Duke of Dorset, the local grandee, and his brother; William Humphry was Rector of Seal, and the Duke’s chaplain. They were a close family, and William procured his brother Ozias many commissions. In the spring of 1788 Ozias returned from India and went down to Kent, where he was first of all kept busy by the Duke, and then by Francis Austen. Also, he painted other miniatures of the Austen family, which we are also putting on this website, (See pages on Ozias Humphry and his works, signature and life.)
The two portraits, Jane and Cassandra were hung at Kippington. The same Mrs Harrison, who owned the miniatures, owned another oil painting of ‘a young woman in a white dress’ which she wrote to Chapman about in 1952. The letter referring to this is reproduced below; it never seems to have occurred to anyone that it could have been Cassandra. Mrs Harrison was only enquiring if it could have been Jane. We spoke to Mrs Harrison’s nephew who had stayed with her in France as a child; he remembered the portrait vaguely, saying only that the girl was older than ours of Jane, and that it was not always hung as Mrs Harrison had so many paintings.
Finally, Miss Le Faye says that Colonel Thomas Austen, an honourable and upright soldier under Wellington, Governor of the Algarve in the Peninsula Wars, Aide Principale to the Viceroy of Ireland, Lord Whitworth, and at one point both an MP and a JP, actually took Miss Le Faye’s view – I quote, ‘he might have taken the proverbial view that ‘a nod’s as good as a wink to a blind horse.’ In that he then gave away the portrait of his niece to Mrs Harding Newman ‘secure in the knowledge she would never know the difference’! Even if she did not, surely his own sister, Jane Campion, her mother, would have noticed!
Miss Le Faye has been believed because of all the work she has done on Austen research in the past, I feel that our picture’s many champions will be pleased that the “Mary Anne Campion” attribution is now finally eliminated.