Jane Austen £10 note portrait ‘airbrushed’, biographer claims

Oxford academic says image is not in keeping with author’s true appearance, turning her into ‘a pretty doll’
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A biographer of Jane Austen has said she is angry that the Bank of England chose an “airbrushed” portrait of the celebrated author for the new £10 note.

Despite receiving the approval of the Jane Austen Society, the 1870 image used on the banknotes has turned the novelist into “a pretty doll with big doe eyes”, according to Oxford University fellow Dr Paula Byrne.

The writer has been chosen to replace Charles Darwin on notes, though they are not expected to enter circulation until 2017.

Dr Byrne, who wrote The Real Jane Austen, told the BBC: “It's a 19th Century airbrushed makeover.

“It makes me quite angry as it's been prettied up for the Victorian era when Jane Austen was very much a woman of Georgian character.”

The Jane Austen Society insisted that the Bank had done a good job, given the fact that the only authentic image of the author is a pencil sketching in the National Portrait Gallery.

But Dr Byrne said: “The costume is wrong and the image creates a myth Austen was a demure spinster and not a deep-thinking author.

“She was edgy for her time and the portrait by her sister Cassandra depicts an intelligent, determined woman.”

In a statement, the Bank told the BBC that the banknote portrait was an 1870 engraving commissioned by Austen's nephew, James Edward Austen Leigh, adapted from the original Cassandra sketch.