1. ITV Report

Jane Austen 'airbrushed' in new £10 notes

Jane Austen is made to look 'doe-eyed and smiley' in this 'inauthentic' portrait of the author, according to Paula Byrne. Photo: PA
  • By Anna Pollitt

Jane Austen biographer Paula Byrne has blasted the image of Jane Austen that will be used on the new £10 notes as "inauthentic" and says the Bank of England should use the original portrait of the author, painted by her sister.

The author of The Real Jane Austen told ITV News that the problem with the image on the bank note is it’s based on a Victorian engraving commissioned by Jane Austen’s descendants, because they thought that the authentic sketch by her sister Cassandra wasn’t pretty enough.

In it, Byrne says, she is made to look doe-eyed and smiley, and is given an out-of-period mob cap, creating an image of her as "prim Aunt Jane".

It’s great that she is to be on the £10 note, but terrible that this twee image will be perpetuated so widely – the real Jane Austen was witty, irreverent, sympathetic to the plight of women forced into the marriage market by economic circumstance and deeply satiric of the conventions of romantic fiction.

You'd never guess that from this image.

– Paula Byrne

The only known picture of Jane Austen, created by her sister, shows the author unsmiling and with clearer signs of age on her face.

The original sketch of Austen by her sister Cassandra - complete with authentic Georgian costume. Credit: Bridgeman Art Library

More than 50 years after Austen's death, a "revamped" depiction of the literary great emerged, to illustrate a memoir by Austen's nephew, James Edward Austen Leigh.

This is the one that is to be used on the upcoming £10 note.