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Austen expert slams bank over choice of new note image
9:00am Thursday 31st October 2013 in News
An Oxford University academic has criticised the Bank of England for choosing an airbrushed portrait of Jane Austen to appear on the £10 note.
Dr Paula Byrne, a biographer of Austen and fellow of Harris Manchester College, attacked the image as portraying the writer as “blank and vacant”.
“It’s a Victorian airbrushing that perpetuates this myth that she was a cosy, domestic writer,” Byrne said. “She wasn’t – she was a feminist. She was a domestic satirist. She’s a subversive writer.”
Byrne said that the only verified portrait of Austen done during her lifetime, an amateur sketch by the author’s sister Cassandra, should have been chosen for the banknote instead. “It has none of that wonderful wit, acerbic energy and intelligence of the original,” Byrne said.
However, the Jane Austen Society has welcomed the Bank’s chosen portrait, which was based on an 1870 engraving commissioned by Austen’s nephew, James Edward Austen Leigh.
“The family chose it, feeling it was a strong resemblance, and that is more or less the image which has been chosen,” Elizabeth Proudman, chairman of the Jane Austen Society, told The Daily Telegraph.
The choice of Austen for the banknote was seen as a triumph by many feminists, and Byrne agreed that it was “utterly fantastic” that Austen was featured.
However, she said: “I’m troubled by the fact that they could’ve gone for the earlier image from her lifetime, and instead, they chose pretty.”
The Hampshire-born author was chosen to replace Charles Darwin on the next version of the £10 note, which is expected to come into circulation from 2017.
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