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Did her family consider her important enough? Does it hold any amateur flaws? Was it even in her character to pose alongside her work?
These are just some of the questions raised by Dr Paula Byrne on Jane Austen: the Unseen Portrait?. Alongside presenter Martha Kearney, she begins the journey into finding out whether or not the mysterious portrait she has come to own is in fact one of Jane Austen.
The portrait, looks not too dissimilar from her sister Cassandra's sketch, the softened image we all know and recognise as looking like Austen. However, with its striking qualities, this 'new' portrait presents us with more sharp features, characteristics that many Janeites would rather choose not to be significance to Miss Austen. Across the hour long programme, we are invited to watch the vast dissecting of all elements of the portrait, from examining the materials used to produce the picture, to the signature on the back, and even the clothes the subject wears.
The Unseen Portrait does allow you to make up your own mind, giving you the chance to piece together all that we have learned about the possibilities of the portrait. However, with Dr Paula's convincing pitch to a panel of experts, one could quite easily be swayed in view. It is definitely a thought provoking experience, one that is not stuffed full of unnecessary detail or excessive adoration. It is, instead, a delightful opportunity to gain a historical insight into Austen's life as a writer in the early 19th Century. The question is, however, do you feel that this once unseen portrait could be the real image of Jane Austen?