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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 

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J

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usten

janeausten

The Fourth Primary Evidence

 

The fourth piece of Primary evidence for the Rice portrait of Jane Austen, provided by Fanny Caroline Lefroy, the granddaughter of the Rev. James Austen, Jane’s brother, whose daughter, Anna married the Rev. Benjamin Lefroy

 

Fanny Caroline Lefroy, Benjamin and Anna’s daughter, was the family historian. Her mother, Anna Austen had lived in the same house as Jane Austen for some ten years, and therefore would have known what she looked like. Morland Rice, on receiving the portrait from the Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding-Newman via his friend, Dr. Bloxham, applied to his cousin for more information. The Rev. Henry Morland Austen, Colonel Thomas Austen’s younger nephew. (The older nephew, John Austen, became Colonel Thomas’ heir, as he died childless). The Rev. Henry Morland Austen in turn applied to Fanny Caroline Lefroy for her opinion about the portrait.

Her evidence is in the letter published below. She says she “knew before of the portrait in your possession”, and cites one or two little difficulties but only of when, and where, the portrait was painted. (As the Zoffany attribution was believed by the Rices at this time, this again was the stumbling block).

 

The Zoffany attribution entered the scene when the Rev. Dr Thomas Harding Newman inherited the picture from his stepmother, Elizabeth Hall. (She was married to his father, Colonel Thomas Harding). On their deaths he hung the painting in his rooms at Magdalen College Oxford. One of the photographs we have of our portrait before the first “restoration” in 1986, the word Humphry is written across the right hand corner of the portrait. Dr Harding-Newman may have seen this signature and confused it with Zoffany as both names end in a “Y”, or he may simply have chosen the smarter artist. Neither Colonel Thomas Austen, nor the Rice family said it was by Zoffany; the whole confusion came from the Rev Dr Harding Newman when he gave the portrait back to Morland Rice in 1883. Zoffany and Humphry were great friends and painted together in India, which added to the

 

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muddle – though Humphry returned to England in early spring 1788 and Zoffany, not until a year later.  

 

The original letter from the Rice archive is published below, the Rev. Henry Morland Austen, writing to his relative, Morland Rice in 1884, a year after Morland received the portrait.

 

Aldermaston Vicarage

Reading

Sept. 9 1884

 

My dear Rice,

 

I thank you very much for your interesting letter, which puts the matter in a very different light. I saw Miss Lefroy

yesterday. She knows more than anybody about the family history. She knew before of the portrait in your possession.  

Except for one or two difficulties, she would have no doubts about its genuineness.

 

1.Jane A was born Dec. 1775. The date on your picture is (she thinks) 1788 or 9, making her not 14.

2.Her parents did not go to Bath till they left Steventon in 1801.

3.Jane and Cassandra were at school at Reading at that period.

 

But on the other hand her Uncle and Aunt Leigh Perrot often visited Bath and she may have been with them, also

“Northanger Abbey” was written long before 1801 and the local colouring is such as to show that she must have been

there before she wrote it.

 

There was only one Col Austen of Kippington, my father’s elder brother, who married 1st Miss Morland, your mother’s

dear friend from girlhood, and from whom you have your own name as your mother told me three years ago.

 

2nd Caroline Manning – who now lives at Hurstpierpoint and whom you met the other day.

My father was a second cousin of Jane Austen. My brother sold Kippington on inheriting some twenty years since and

built a new house on the really old family property at Horsmonden, which my father had from old John Austen from

Broadford and also the Tenterden property from another branch. Sir Henry A. whose wife (as mentioned in his life)

was the great friend of Cowper the poet. The Tunbridge branch was the same.

 

If you really want it, I could perhaps get the whole pedigree for you.

 

We live in 45 Hertford St. Mayfair and are only here till the 24th.

 

We should be very glad to see you any time you may be in London, if you will look us up I may have some more

information to give you –

 

Yours sincerely

 

H. Morland Austen.

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