No one knows for sure what Jane Austen looked like, but that won’t hold anyone back from erecting a statue of her for the bicentenary of her death this July.
The BBC reports that the maquette for the bronze sculpture that will be placed in Basingstoke town center this year has been revealed and, well, here it is:
The sculpture is being made by artist Adam Roud, and it definitely nails the outfit. The face is a bit vague, but this is the only known portrait of Austen, drawn by her sister Cassandra in 1810:
According to the Daily Mail, Austen’s niece, Alice, said the drawing was “hideously unlike” the author, but I think the crossed-arms pose conveys a lot of character. Roud says he’s looked at the drawing, a possible silhouette of Austen from a book she gave her cousin, and read descriptions of her in order to form her visage. He added, “It isn’t a fabulous drawing so you have to take that with a pinch of salt.” Then you sprinkle the salt on the face so it melts a little.
The statue was commissioned by Hampshire Cultural Trust, and requires another £10,000 to complete. Maria Miller, the former Culture Secretary and current chairman of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, told the Daily mail that she can’t believe there’s no statue of Austen up already, adding, “Across the country fewer than one in five statues are of women.”
Could artists stumped by Jane Austen’s face be holding back female representation on statuary? Nah, it’s probably sexism, but as Miller says, “It’s got to change.” As always, Austen is a pioneer.