Jane Austen portrait fetches £164,500

Two people wearing white gloves hold a portrait of Jane Austen Sotheby's said the painting was "part of our cultural history"

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A painting described as the "most famous image" of Jane Austen has sold at auction for £164,500.

The James Andrews watercolour was commissioned by the novelist's nephew in 1869 and a version will appear on the new £10 note from 2017.

Dr Gabriel Heaton of auction house Sotheby's said the painting had been "crucial in transforming her from a novelist into a national figure".

Sotheby's said it was bought by an anonymous private collector.

The Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire, said it did not bid because it could not raise the funds so soon after buying a ring that belonged to the author for £149,000 in September.

Portrait of Jane Austen The painting was based on a sketch by Austen's sister

The painting had a pre-sale estimate of £150,000-£200,000.

The Reverend James Edward Austen-Leigh, Austen's nephew, asked artist James Andrews to create the painting for a biography.

It was based on the only confirmed portrait of Austen made before her death in 1817 - a sketch by her sister Cassandra, which is in the National Portrait Gallery.

He felt the sketch of his aunt did not do her justice, and used Andrews' painting for his book Memoir of Jane Austen.

Dr Heaton called the painting the "most important likeness of Jane Austen ever likely to appear on the open market".

"Seeing the most famous image of Jane Austen, for the first time, in a domestic sitting room was an astonishing experience," he said.

"This delicate watercolour is so much more than a piece of literary portraiture - it is part of our cultural history."

He said the portrait gave readers "an image with which they could identify and which even seemed to embody the character of her work".

Austen's novels include Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.

Bank of England Austen banknote design Jane Austen will appear on £10 banknotes from 2017

At the same sale, an original pencil sketch by the Winne the Pooh illustrator EH Shepard sold for £58,750, just breaching its higher sales estimate of £50,000.

The basis for an illustration which later appeared in AA Milne's The House At Pooh Corner, it depicts Christopher Robin and Winne the Pooh playing Poohsticks.

Another early colour illustration by Shepard, entitled Christopher Robin's Braces, sold for £68,500.

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