Archive for the ‘Professor Claudia Johnson’ Category

Jane Austen to the Life?

At last I can tell you all about the very latest evidence on the Rice Portrait!
Recently published in the Times Literary Supplement is an excellent article by Professor Claudia L. Johnson on the Rice Portrait of Jane Austen. As she states … it would now seem that there is decisive evidence that the “Rice Portrait” of Jane Austen (seen here in a photograph from 1910) is indeed an authentic likeness of the novelist, made in her lifetime. This evidence consists of the three lines of script in the upper right-hand corner, in the area outlined in yellow. First, the artist’s signature: Ozia[s] Humphry, R.A. Second, the date of the portrait: 178* (that last digit is probably a nine). And third, the name of the sitter: Jane Austen.

The image produced by the Emery Walker negative from 1910

Professor Johnson highlights some of the debates that have ensued over the years, but continues:
We would still be at an impasse were it not for a singular stroke of luck. In 1910, Sir Ernest Rice, then owner of the portrait, hired the prominent engraver, printer and photographer Emery Walker to photograph the Rice Portrait at the request of his cousins William and R. W. Austen-Leigh, who would use it as the frontispiece to their biography. This photograph, which seems unremarkable, not to mention a bit unfocused, is thus extremely valuable in preserving an image of the portrait as it existed before its twentieth-century cleanings. The original glass plate negatives of Walker’s photograph are in the Heinz Archive of the National Portrait Gallery, listed under the title “Unknown girl formerly known as Jane Austen”. Last year, the Heinz supplied an adequately high resolution digital scan of these negatives to Acumé Forensics, a firm in Leeds specializing in, among other things, the analysis of digital images for evidentiary purposes in courts of law. The images printed here are reproduced from Acume’s report.

I hope you will read Professor Johnson’s articleclick here to read in full.

I am delighted to have been given permission to show you the Acume Forensics report which has been copied below. I’m sure you’ll find the accompanying images fascinating!

Acume Forensics Ltd

Examination and Improvement Emery Walker Negatives 1910 

21st July 2012 Instruction
I was instructed by  – – –  to examine a digital scan of a photographic plate produced by Emma Cavalier of the National Portrait Gallery, London. A copy of this scan has been subject to certain documented improvements conducted by an amateur which allegedly revealed a signature attributed to Ozias Humphry. I was asked to conduct both an assessment of the work previously conducted and also to conduct my own independent examination and improvement of the scanned image.
Review Procedure
The image under review is in its original form a glass negative which is documented as being produced by Emery Walker (photographer) in 1910, and held at the National Portrait Gallery in London. (NPG).
In order to conduct a forensic examination of this scanned image its provenance must first be established, to facilitate this first stage an original uncompressed scan was requested from NPG, the supplied scan was verified as original and unaltered using the files digital metadata, this is data generated when any digital image is produced.
In this instance I was able to confirm the supplied image Z1170_EW1009-3_A1_size.tif was produced on the 5th May 2012 at 17:37hrs using an Epson Perfection V700 scanner. The negative was scanned at a resolution of 11906 pixels by 7835 pixels at 360 pixels per inch and saved as a lossless .tif file. The date and time are recorded from the computer attached to the scanner/camera and as such cannot be relied upon in isolation. However in this case the time of production is immaterial.
The recording resolution used for this scan is much higher than the resolving capabilities of the original negative, this high resolution capture ensures no recorded information is lost and is regarded as good practice for this type of photographic imaging.

The scan reveals the limitation of the original camera used in 1910, with the image being both unevenly exposed showing a lack of detail in the highlights and shadows due to over exposure or over development. `The image is also slightly out of focus with no point of sharp focus across the whole image. 
However on review the image does show some clear and legible written characters visible prior to any improvement. 
The area of the image allegedly containing the disputed signature had previously been identified, this area alone was subject to visual improvement. A blanket adjustment was used to ensure that no pixels were over treated, over treatment can result in pixels being adjusted to artificially to either contain no information (256) or be completely black (0). In this case this could inadvertently introduce extensions to characters not actually present on the original image.
Images showing the highlighted signature, date and subject

A custom adjustment curve was applied to the key area both as a negative and positive image, an unsharp mask was also applied at a very low level to improve edge definition (contrast). 

Acume Forensics Ltd
After improvement the signature(s) are clearly visible, a simple visual comparison chart was produced using a high provenance image of Ozias Humphry’s signature in ink from 1786. 

There are signatures recorded on the Emery Walker negatives. Which I read as – Ozia RA_ _ _ _ Humphry
Jane Austen _7
Ozia Humphry RA178_
Dashes show an illegible character.

Addendum September 30th 2012
After further review I have produced a further set of improved images using a high pass filter, this has further improved contrast between the signatures and the background. 

Stephen Cole Technical Director

Acume Forensics 21st July 2012

If you’d like to read more on the history and provenance of the Rice Portrait – please visit The Rice Portrait of Jane Austen website 


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I’d like to thank Professor Claudia Johnson of Princeton University for kindly granting permission to reproduce this article. It’s a wonderful piece of writing!

If one were to contend that the portrait is not Jane Austen, one is dealing with the following scenario:

Jane Austen The Rice Portrait

That Colonel Thomas Austen, who knew Jane Austen personally and was a member of her family gave the portrait as Jane Austen, but knowing that it was not, while innumerable people who personally knew Jane Austen were still alive, to a person who either knew Jane Austen personally or greatly admired the novelist, who accepted it as being of Jane Austen (even though it wa not) and who was married to Thomas Harding-Newman who knew Jane Austen personally and may have proposed to her and who presumably accepted it as Jane Austen (even though he knew it was not); all this at a time when innumerable people who knew Jane Austen personally were still alive.

That she (Elizabeth Hall) gave it to her step-son Dr Thomas Harding-Newman, a don at Magdalen College Oxford, who knew many people who had known Jane Austen personally and accepted it as being of Jane Austen (even though it was not) and that he gave it, via another don, to a member of Jane Austen’s family.

That in 1884 the historian of the family whose mother had lived in the same house as Jane Austen for ten years (and had only died twelve years before 1884) had INDEPENDENTLY CORROBORATED the identity of the sitter as Jane Austen, but she must have been mistaken. (“She knew before of the painting in your possession”).
Professor Claudia Johnson – Murray Professor of English Literature, Princeton University

(The historian of the family referred to is Fanny-Caroline Lefroy)

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Colonel Thomas Austen
Reproduced by kind permission of the owner –
 from a private collection

Mrs. Henry Rice joins me today for part three of the Rice Portrait Provenance. The history of the painting is a fascinating one, and I’ve loved hearing about all of the owners, but I must admit, I think Colonel Thomas’s biography is one of the most interesting! Thank you for joining us again.

Colonel Thomas Austen, (1775 – 1859) the third owner of the portrait, was Jane’s second cousin, and a great friend of Edward Knight, her brother. They were both fanatical cricketers, and played in the Duke of Dorset’s (the founder of the MCC’s) team, called at one point, ‘The Gentlemen of Kent’. Elizabeth Austen, my husband Henry’s great, great grandmother, knew him well. We know from her that he rode very well to hounds, was a fine shot, and also played the violin. His mother, Elizabeth Motley Austen (née Wilson) had had a great admirer called Sir Horace Mann who also taught him to play brilliant cricket.
His army career was very distinguished, and he was made Governor of the Algarve during the Penninsular wars, (where he was reprimanded by the top brass for being too easy on French spies!)
He fought in America in the 40th regiment of foot, the Green Jackets, and under Wellington, and visited South Africa, Canada, and the West Indies.

Kippington House

In 1803, he married the obligatory heiress, (as his eldest brother Lucius was not stable) one Margaretta Morland whose family had made a fortune out of sugar and rum in the West Indies. Colonel Thomas and Margaretta married in Bath in 1803, and Margaretta was left behind at Kippington with his mother and father, whilst he was abroad. They had no children, and during his long absences Margaretta turned a wing at Kippington into a small school-like operation; looking after motherless girls of friends whose mothers had died in childbed. Sadly, those abounded in the eighteenth century, and thereby hangs a tale. Both Elizabeth and Fanny Austen, Edward Austen/Knight’s daughters stayed with her, and so did Elizabeth Hall, the only daughter of another rich Jamaican plantation owner, Thomas Hall. Again, in family recollection, he was a terrible hypochondriac, and the two of them are supposed to be the inspiration for ‘Emma’, and her father ‘Mr. Woodhouse’. This is borne out by archives which refer to a letter written to him by a friend telling him to pull himself together, think of his daughter and stop complaining about his health, (after his wife’s death).
The motherless girls were referred to as Margaretta’s ‘protegés’, and when the portrait of Jane was given to Elizabeth Hall on her marriage to Colonel Thomas Harding-Newman in 1818, it explains why she knew the family, Jane, and the portrait so well. She was given it because she was ‘a great admirer of the novelist’, not just of her books, but of Jane herself.

Colonel Thomas’s possessions were all also entailed, but his friend Thomas Harding-Newman had proposed to Jane, his wife-to-be had known her, so perhaps he felt the pleasure he was giving them outweighed the entail problem! Henry and I met the Harding-Newman family; they are quite charming, and said that their ancestor was not the handsomest chap in the world, (the family name for him was ‘Old Mossy Face’) and they could understand why Jane had turned him down!
So Jane was separated from Cassandra in 1818, to descend for one generation through the Harding-Newman family, leaving her sister at Kippington.

Colonel Thomas married again in 1826 aged 50 (after Margaretta’s death in 1825) to the local belle Caroline Manning aged 18; but again the marriage was childless. His heir was his nephew, John-Francis Austen, to whose descendant, Charlotte Marianne, or May Austen, Cassandra’s portrait descended in direct line.

Godmersham Park

Colonel Austen and Margaretta were always very close to Edward Knight’s family, and therefore also close to Edward Royd Rice, Henry’s ancestor. Indeed, during their engagement Edward injured himself in a fall from a horse and whilst he recovered, Elizabeth went to stay with Colonel Thomas and Margaretta at Kippington.
Colonel Thomas and Margaretta stayed at Godmersham for the wedding of Elizabeth Austen to Edward Royd Rice, in 1818 on October 6th, the day before Edward Knight’s birthday, and the story goes that the bride of 18 ran around the tops of the garden walls after the ceremony still wearing her wedding dress! It must have been a wonderful party!

Colonel Thomas Austen died in 1859, by all accounts a much loved patron and landowner.

Anne Rice June 2011

I have loved hearing about the connections between this branch of the family and Jane Austen’s family. Next time, I shall be adding my own comments about this particular part of the provenance, and by kind permission of Professor Claudia Johnson, the Murray Professor of English Literature at Princeton University, I will be reproducing some of her writing on the subject!

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