Executed by Ozias Humphry R.A in 1788.

A  portrait, its provenance and history...

Executed by Ozias Humphry R.A in 1788.

A  portrait, its provenance and history...

The Rice Portrait of 






The First Primary Evidence


The First Primary Evidence For The Rice Portrait Colonel Thomas Austen’s Evidence, as Explained by The Rev Doc Thomas Harding-Newman.


In 1817, Colonel Thomas Austen and his wife Margaretta (nee Morland) returned from Dublin where he had been the Chief Aide to the Viceroy, and Governor of Ireland, Lord Whitworth. His mother, Elizabeth Motley-Austen died that year, and he inherited Kippington Park near Sevenoaks in Kent, as well as numerous other properties, including the Red House, his grandfather’s home. Jane died in the summer of 1817, and in 1818, he gave away the portrait of her, by Ozias Humphry R.A; to his great friend Colonel Thomas Harding-Newman, who was marrying Elizabeth Hall, another old family friend. Colonel Harding-Newman’s son wrote later in 1880 (when he was planning to give the portrait to Morland Rice, Jane’s great nephew).


“I shall hope to give another painting of Jane Austen, the novelist, by Zoffany, to her relative Morland Rice. It is of a girl about 15, and came into my family the gift of Colonel Austen of Kippington, to my mother-in-law, or rather, step-mother, my father’s second wife, who was a great admirer of the novelist. I can remember Colonel Austen visiting this place. Latterly, when at Bramber, I have failed to fall in with my old friend (he is referring to Morland Rice who was rector of Bramber). I don’t think he can have forgotten me, I was at Oxford when he knocked his head against a post and ascertained that the post was the harder of the two”. (This fall from his horse affected Morland Rice’s brilliance as a scholar, and he took Holy orders). The portrait was given to Morland Rice after Harding-Newman’s death, by Benjamin Harding-Newman, his nephew, who inherited from him. Dr Bloxham, a friend of Morland Rice, received the portrait in 1883, and gave it to him. The letter below is in the Bodleian Library.


“If one were to contend that the portrait is not Jane Austen, one is dealing with the following



“That Colonel Thomas Austen, who knew Jane Austen personally and was a member of her

family, gave the portrait as Jane Austen, but knowing that it was not, while innumerable

people who personally knew Jane Austen were still alive, to a person who either knew

Jane Austen personally or greatly admired the novelist, who accepted it as being of Jane

Austen (even though it was not) and who was married to Thomas Harding-Newman who

knew Jane Austen personally and may have proposed to her and who presumably accepted

it as Jane Austen (even though he knew it was not); all this at a time when innumerable

people who knew Jane Austen personally were still alive.


That she (Elizabeth Hall) gave it to her stepson The Rev. Dr Thomas Harding-Newman, a

don at Magdalen College Oxford, who knew many people who had known Jane Austen

personally and accepted it as being of Jane Austen (even though it was not) and that he

gave it, via another don, to a member of Jane Austen’s family.


That in 1884 the historian of the family whose mother had lived in the same house as

Jane Austen for ten years (and had only died twelve years before 1884) had

INDEPENDENTLY CORROBORATED the identity of the sitter as Jane Austen, but

she must have been mistaken. (“She knew before of the painting in your possession”).

Written by Professor Claudia Johnson – Professor of English at Princeton University

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