What Jane Austen Looked Like According to Forensic Science
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In the nearly 200 years since the beloved author’s death, readers have been unsure what Jane Austen actually looked like. The only portrait available was a watercolor by her sister Cassandra (left) that Austen’s niece claimed was “hideously unlike” the author.
Although one would hope the appearance of an author is irrelevant to enjoying their work, Jane Austen fans who’ve been curious about her appearance now have a life-size wax sculpture courtesy of the Jane Austen Centre. The sculpture is based on work done by FBI-trained forensic artist’ Melissa Dring. Dring used first hand accounts of Austen’s appearance of which there are several. The Guardian points out this passage from the memoir of her nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh:
“Her figure was rather tall and slender, her step light and firm, and her whole appearance expressive of health and animation. In complexion she was a clear brunette with a rich colour; she had full round cheeks, with mouth and nose small and well-formed, bright hazel eyes, and brown hair forming natural curls close round her face.”
Dring used Cassandra’s watercolor and pencil portrait as a jumping off point, but noted that it makes Austen “look like she’s been sucking lemons.”
Here’s the full wax figure in authentic period clothes: