Miss Austen has received a radical new change of image in our new and exclusive Pop Art range! This colourful new take on our favourite author is of course inspired by those classic Pop Art images of celebrities, but you may, perhaps, be unfamiliar with the image of Jane herself that serves as the source.
First, we have to go back to 2002, when the internationally acclaimed forensic artist Melissa Dring created a brand new portrait of Jane in response to a commission from the Jane Austen Centre. As all Janeites know, few of the great figures of British literature have so few surviving visual records of their appearance, and the only authenticated image - a small watercolour painted by her sister Cassandra - was described by Jane's niece as "hideously unlike" its subject.
Melissa entered the picture when David Baldock, director of the Jane Austen Centre, read an article concerning her creating a likeness of the composer Vivaldi based on eye-witness descriptions. So Melissa used contemporary accounts of Miss Austen’s features and character, and drew on her experience of working with the police in the art of facial reconstruction. It was a bold move! Jane's admirers can be highly protective of their heroine, and often see themselves as custodians of her legacy. But happily the response was positive, with many fans endorsing Melissa's belief that the delightful portrait comes as close as possible to a definitive likeness. (You can find out more about how the portrait was designed in this article)
Then, in 2014, the project was taken a stage further, with the unveiling of a stunningly lifelike waxwork of Jane, based upon the portrait. Over two years in the making, the result was a collaboration between internationally-renowned portrait sculptor Mark Richards, Bafta & Emmy award-winning designer Andrea Galer and former Madame Tussaud’s hair and colour artist Nell Clarke. The figure is now displayed at a specially created space within the Jane Austen Centre, in Bath and has proved a huge hit with visitors. Almost eerily lifelike in even the tiniest detail, it brings us as near as we will ever get to being able to look the lady herself squarely in the eye, and her wise but warm countenance can be seen on many of the items available from our online gift shop, including this beautiful mounted print. And so it is this image of Jane that has now been given a radical - but respectful - transformation into the world of modern-day celebrity via our Jane Austen Pop Art range. This new twist on the earlier image is a reinvention, a celebration, and also a reminder that Jane is a true icon, whose qualities commend her as freshly to each new generation as to the one before. We hope she would have been amused by her new look!