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Rarely seen Jane Austen portrait on show to mark 200 years since writer’s death

The watercolour was commissioned by the Pride And Prejudice novelist’s nephew in 1869.

One of the most famous images of Jane Austen is returning to the UK for an exhibition marking the 200th anniversary of the author’s death.

The James Andrews watercolour was commissioned by the Pride And Prejudice novelist’s nephew in 1869 and will appear on the new £10 note from 2017.

But the rarely-seen portrait was snapped up by a private collector, thought to be in the US, for £164,500 at an auction in London in 2013.

Austen’s nephew, the Rev James Edward Austen-Leigh, commissioned the portrait to accompany the Memoir Of Jane Austen, his influential, first full-length biography of the Sense And Sensibility writer.

It was based on the only confirmed portrait of Austen made during her lifetime – a sketch by her sister Cassandra, which is in the National Portrait Gallery.

That portrait will also feature in the exhibition, along with Austen’s teenage writings and the original ending she penned for another of her great novels, Persuasion.

Dissatisfied with the original ending, Austen rewrote the chapters for the novel, which was published posthumously in 1818.

Also on show is a manuscript of a volume of writings, including a spoof History Of England, which she penned at the age of 16.

About 80 items, including personal letters, prints, illustrations and clothing, from private and public collections around the world, will go on display in The Mysterious Miss Austen.

Highlights include Austen’s silk pelisse coat, featuring a pattern of oak leaves, her purse and sewing materials case.

The show, at The Gallery in Winchester Discovery Centre, in the city where Austen died in 1817 and just a few miles from the Hampshire village where she was born, will feature six portraits of the Emma and Mansfield Park author, under one roof for the first time.

Co-curator Professor Kathryn Sutherland said: “If you think you know Jane Austen, think again. Jane Austen is our most intimate writer – the writer we each feel speaks to and for us – and yet we know so little about her.

“What we do know is built upon ambiguities, contradictions and paradox: even how she looked is something of a mystery. The Mysterious Miss Austen will celebrate and challenge the reputation of our best-known, unknowable writer.”

In 2013, a ring once owned by Austen which was sold to US singer Kelly Clarkson was saved for the nation after a museum where the author lived, Jane Austen’s House Museum, raised more than £150,000 to buy it.

The Mysterious Miss Austen runs from May 13 to July 24 at The Gallery in Winchester Discovery Centre.

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