Hear Ye, Hear Ye, A Jane Austen Victorian Airbrushing Scandal!

Jane Austen is the newest face on Britain’s 10 pound note.  Yay feminism, right?  Well, hold your horses, sister suffragette, because now Austen’s biographer is howling about an airbrushing scandal.

The image on the left is a drawing by Austen’s sister, Cassandra Austen, and is the only known image of the writer to exist from her lifetime.  The image on the right is how the Pride And Prejudice author is depicted on the 10 pound note, and it was drawn by one of Austen’s descendants.

But The Real Jane Austen author Paula Byrne is complaining that she now looks “dim-witted” by her more youthful and attractive visage. She even compared Austen’s look to a “Katie Price makeover,” a dig at a UK reality star similar to Kim Kardashian in her what-do-you-actually-do? stature.  “It would have been better to show her as much more spiky, rather than suggest that she was a saccharine writer,” Byrne told the UK’s Guardian.  “They’ve made her look like a doll, with big eyes. She wasn’t smiling in the original and she is in this. It is a Victorian airbrushing of her.”

Byrne makes a good point about historical authenticity. However, Austen isn’t unrecognizable, just smoother and with wider eyes . She did get a younger-looking makeover, but comparing her to a D-list sexpot is melodramatic.  Perhaps depicting Austen as eternally young isn’t totally  historically authentic, but most people won’t be able to ascertain the difference any more than they would what a young or old Charles Darwin looked like (whom Austen is replacing on the 10 pound note). Anyway, the image debuted in July, but won’t be used in circulation until 2017.  That gives Austen’s biographer plenty of time to advocate for adding some wrinkles, or, perhaps a tubercular fever.

I actually think Jane Austen’s social satire on Photoshop would be brilliant.  It’s too bad she is not around to comment on Victorian airbrushing herself.

[Guardian UK]

[Telegraph UK]

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