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In Other News . . .

Friday, April 20, 2007

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Thursday marked the auction of a portrait purported to be of Jane Austen—not the familiar drawing by her sister Cassandra, long accepted in academic circles as the only genuine image of Jane Austen in existence, but a full-length, painted portrait. In this Jane Austen Society of North America article, you can compare the two pictures.

Being a scoffer of this as a genuine painting of her (wrong clothing style, too many inconsistencies and unlikelihoods in the provenance, no mention or record of this portrait having been commissioned or painted–and I believe Jane would have written about that experience!), I’ve followed this story with curiosity. Especially since this painting has been on the market before and did not sell. No one in England will touch it, apparently, so Rice (a “descendant” of Jane Austen all the news organizations have been calling him, though she was childless and he’s actually a descendant of one of her brothers—the one adopted by another family who changed his last name from Austen to Knight). Apparently, Rice brought the portrait here because he decided American buyers were more “open-minded.”

Here’s an interview from NPR’s “Morning Edition” program today explaining more about the painting and the skepticism surrounding it.

So I went to the Christie’s website to find out more information on the painting itself—Lot #120 in a sale of Important Old Master Paintings—because I wanted to know if it actually brought in the $400,000–800,000 they expected for it. So, I pulled up the auction results page.

The painting in this sale that brought in the most money was Lot #113: Bernardo Bellotto Venice 1721-1780 Warsaw / The Grand Canal at the Church of San Stae, Venice / oil on canvas—an impressive $11 million!

But how much did the Rice “Portrait of Jane Austen” bring in? Well, if you look at the list, you’ll notice that Lot #120 is not listed. According to the top of the page, “Lots which did not sell are not shown.”

I guess we Americans aren’t as gullible as ol’ Rice hoped.

In more Other News, next month a $125 million Charles Dickens theme park, “Dickens’ World,” will open for business in Kent, outside of London. According to http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/ the main feature of the park “is a painstakingly recreated Victorian London, from the cramped streets to Newgate Prison to the city waterways of Oliver Twist . . . Attractions include a boat ride the operators claim is the longest of its kind in Europe, and a haunted house featuring the various Christmas ghosts as well as Ebenezer Scrooge. Escaped convict Magwitch is there with his chilling warning, ‘You ain’t seen me!’ And there is a Fagin’s den, though it is now a children’s soft play area.

The good ol’ BBC (one voice amongst many) wonders “is it wrong to Disney-fy” a classic author like this. Kevin Christie, of the International Dickens Fellowship—who spearheaded this project—defends it by saying, “Dickens was not a purist, he was a populist. He wrote stories serialised for newspapers. If he were alive he would be writing for TV. I think he would have loved this.”

The truth of the matter in both of these cases is that Jane Austen and Charles Dickens (though their lives overlapped, they were not really contemporaries) are both long-since dead and gone. The legacy they left behind them—their novels and other writings—is all we in the twenty-first century will ever know about them. Though I am very proprietary about the liberties people take with “adapting” Jane’s stories for movies or other works, I hold fast to the opinion that her legacy—and Dickens’ as well—is what we make of it. Their stories have meaning only as each reader interprets them. Let’s not ascribe anything to them that isn’t true (like the painting), but let’s have fun with the stories they gave us. And if the furor surrounding an “is it or isn’t it” controversy over a “Jane Austen Portrait” or a haunted house featuring Scrooge and the Christmas ghosts gets one more person to pick up a book and read, then I’m all for it!

Oh, and if anyone happens to be reading this 200 years in the future—I formally give you my blessing to build a Kaye’s World theme park and sell any pictures you can find that “might” be me . . . especially if they show me as thin and gorgeous.

7 Comments
  1. Friday, April 20, 2007 7:54 am

    LOL! How funny~Kaye’s World! I’d go–oh wait, I won’t be here. But I will not die, I am holding out for the rapture!

    Going to check out the links you provided now.

    Like

  2. Friday, April 20, 2007 9:32 am

    Hm. Maybe I should authorize a Sally’s World on my website. Too funny, Kaye!

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  3. Friday, April 20, 2007 10:30 am

    Tell us what sort of attractions and rides you would have built. What sort of theme?

    What a fun idea to think about.

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  4. Friday, April 20, 2007 1:15 pm

    Architectural Record did a little piece on the Charles Dickens theme park about a year ago (posted it on my blog way back when). I WANT to go see that. The description sounded like pure heaven for and architect and a story teller like me 😀 That and I’d love to see 1800s England come alive again as told through Dicken’s stories…

    I guess you can see I have no problem with the idea 🙂

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  5. Friday, April 20, 2007 1:22 pm

    http://cjencyclopedia.typepad.com/ramblings_of_a_writer/2005/09/great_expectati.html

    That’s the link, with a sketch of the initial design…and I was off. I made the post in Sept 2005! Where has the time gone? I can’t believe it was that long ago I posted that.

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  6. Wednesday, April 25, 2007 7:10 pm

    Hmm… Last time I checked Jane was British. Not French. Don’t people know there’s a difference??? A proper British woman of Jane’s station wouldn’t have been caught dead wearing a dress with a French neckline. Tsk tsk.

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