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THIS STORY LAST UPDATED: 10 March 2004 1303 GMT
Is this the real face of Jane Austen?
Close-up of Austen portait
The eyes have it?
Jane Austen fans all carry their own mental picture of what she looked like. Forensic artist Melissa Dring has revealed her definitive portrait of Jane Austen at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath... but is the face we have in mind?
SEE ALSO

Jane Austen goes to Bollywood

BBC - History - Jane Austen biography

WEB LINKS

Jane Austen Centre in Bath

Melissa Dring's website

National Portrait Gallery


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FACTS

Melissa Dring was trained at the Royal Academy Schools, London as a portrait painter, and as a Police Forensic artist by the FBI in Washington, USA.  

She is a member of the Pastel Society UK, showing her work in the annual spring exhibition at the Mall Galleries, London.   

She has a BSc Hons in Psychology of Facial Indentification and works freelance for police forces throughout the United Kingdom.  

She has also worked as a courtroom artist for TV news programmes.

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There is no definitive portrait of Jane Austen.  No one knows exactly what she looked like.  Whilst much has been written about her character and attributes, her 'real' appearance remains unclear.

The new portrait will hang 'pride of place' at the Centre.

Having seen her work on Vivaldi, Melissa Dring was commissioned by David Baldock, director of the Jane Austen Centre, to produce a new portrait of the author as she might have appeared during her time in Bath, from 1801-1806.  

Combining the insights of the professional portrait painter with those of the police forensic artist, Melissa was uniquely qualified to accept this challenge.

The new portrait of Jane Austen by Melissa Dring.
The new portrait of Jane Austen by Melissa Dring.

Click here for larger image.

Melissa Dring's Portrait of Jane Austen is the only 'forensic' attempt to recreate an accurate picture of Jane Austen as an adult during the Regency period.

There is a gap left by the paucity of authenticated representations of Jane Austen - just a tiny pencil and watercolour sketch of the author in the National Portrait Gallery in London, by her elder sister Cassandra, and a steel ngraving made from that portrait years later. 

Cassandra, somewhat unhelpfully, also painted a back view of Jane Austen, and there are two silhouettes, popular in her day, one of which is said to be a self-portrait.   

So a new portrait of 186 years after the author left Bath is timely.  

Fortunately for Melissa, there are wealth of  written eyewitness accounts of Jane Austen, mainly from relatives, that survive.

"Those who have seen it so far are struck by the eyes," says Centre manager David Baldock.

"Unlike all the other images of Jane, this one has a real light and intelligence."

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