Archive for the ‘Rice Portrait Provenance’ Category

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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 Francis Motley Austen
Reproduced by kind permission of the owner
-from a private collection

Mrs. Francis Motley Austen
Reproduced by kind permission of the owner
-from a private collection

In the second part of this series of blog posts on the provenance of the Rice portrait, Mrs. Henry Rice talks about the second owner of the portrait,  Francis Motley Austen.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Mrs. Rice – I know everyone will enjoy reading more of the portrait’s history!

Francis Motley Austen, Uncle Francis’s eldest son by his wife Anne Motley who died in childbirth in 1747, was the second owner of the portraits. In 1791 he inherited a large fortune from his father, and several estates as well as The Red House, Wilmington, and Lamberhurst where he lived. In 1796 he foreclosed on Kippington Park, an estate adjoining Knole, and (having removed the family called Farnaby,) moved his family in. Kippington is a large house, and he may have wished to leave the trappings of ‘trade’ behind him. There is some suggestion that he paid Ozias in 1796 for the pictures (a bill in his account books of Austen-Clarige which consists of ‘My bill on you, for pictures at Kippington, 30 pounds, 7 shillings was paid – eg. fifteen pounds, three shillings and sixpence each.)
By all accounts Francis Motley did not favour his Austen cousins as had his father for he did not present them with the portraits, but in any case, his father had left everything entailed, which meant he was also unable to give them away. As well as the portraits Francis Motley Austen inherited Uncle Francis’s good collection of Italian paintings that he had amassed during his life, which also would have looked well at Kippington. This also explains why the portraits were not so generally known in Hampshire being painted and held in Kent.

Lucius Austen
Reproduced by kind permission of the owner
-from a private collection

Francis Motley and his wife Elizabeth Wilson had 11 children. Their eldest son Lucius married, but had only two daughters, and then went irrevocably mad, and was disinherited by Act of Parliament. His younger brother Thomas Austen eventually inherited on his father’s death in 1815, although he did not actually move into Kippington until his mother’s death in 1817. We discovered Thomas’s marriage certificate; he married Margaretta Morland in 1803, in Bath, and he is described as being a ‘Resident of this Parish’; ergo Francis Motley had a house in Bath, which is also supposed to have belonged to Uncle Francis before him. Uncle Francis had had many dealings with shipping and trade in Bristol so a house in Bath would have suited him well. He certainly could have afforded it. My late husband Henry discovered that he also had ‘a finger in the pie’ at Coalbrookdale in the industrial revolution, and had known Abraham Derby – what a mover and shaker he must have been – not just a quiet Sevenoaks solicitor!
Anne Rice June 2011

Thank you, Mrs. Rice for another fascinating account! Next time we’ll be looking at the third owner of the portrait, Colonel Thomas Austen.

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In the first of a new series of blog posts, I’d like to welcome Mrs. Henry Rice who is going to be telling us all about the provenance of the ‘Rice’ Portrait of Jane Austen. Written in her own words is her account taken from letters and documents which her husband Henry Rice collated over many years. I’m sure you will enjoy reading this fascinating insight as much as I have!

The Rice Portrait Provenance – Its Owners by Mrs. Henry Rice

Great Uncle Francis

This story, and the portrait of Jane Austen started in the summer of 1788 when George Austen took his wife, and his two young daughters, Cassandra aged 15, and Jane aged not quite 13 years old to visit their Great Uncle Francis Austen at his home called The Red House in Sevenoaks, Kent. Francis Austen was an enormously rich and successful man, he had been head of Lincoln’s Inn in London, and owned properties in Essex, as well as in Kent. He was an expert in the settling, and safeguarding of large estates by entail, and by inheritance, and counted some of the most important families in England amongst his clients; the Dorsets, the Berkeleys, and Cravens, amongst others.
In 1788, he was 90 years old, having been born in 1698 in the reign of Queen Anne. His second wife Jane had been Jane Austen’s godmother, but was now dead, and Francis was indulging himself in his old age as a benevolent family patriarch. Ozias Humphry, much patronised by Francis’s main employer and patron, the Duke of Dorset had already painted him at the Duke’s request once, and at his own once again for The Red House.
Francis had always been a kind and generous patron of his nephew George Austen. It is hardly surprising that he was persuaded, or perhaps cajoled, into commissioning the portraits of his two great nieces from his friend Ozias, who was rather down on his luck at the time having returned from India in the spring of 1788, with little success and somewhat short of money. Ozias always demanded half his fee for his portraits ‘up front’, his accounts show that he charged about 13 guineas first, and the second half on completion. He made a note of Francis Austen’s death in 1791, which implies money owing to him.

Edward Austen
Jane Austen, the ‘Rice Portrait’

The family has always believed that after the portraits of Cassandra and Jane were commissioned in the summer of 1788, Ozias Humphry stayed at Godmersham Park that autumn, and there executed sketches and drawings of the backgrounds in the park. On the 7th October that year Edward Austen-Knight was 21 years old, and again family tradition has it that he returned from the first leg of his Grand Tour for his Coming of Age celebrations with his adoptive parents. His own portrait, also signed OH, places him within the Godmersham grounds in front of a large English oak tree,  the old temple ruins in the background, and also graves from Godmersham churchyard.
Jane’s background includes the river Stour that flows to the left of the big house, and in both pictures the same autumnal colours are used, as well as the depiction of stormy skies. It’s interesting to note the stance in both of the portraits, the angles of the cane and the parasol are almost identical. Ozias having been trained as a miniaturist and a very fine one, had difficulty in many of his paintings in the execution of limbs painted in large. Note the elongation of Edward’s arm holding his hat, and Jane’s elongated arm holding the parasol.
As with much of the inherited Austen artefacts and documents, over time they were split amongst family members. The last descendant of the Kippington Austen line may well have owned the portrait of Cassandra. May Harrison lived out her final years in Grasse, France, and on November 28th 1952 she wrote to R.W. Chapman saying she owned by descent, a portrait which she believed could be Jane Austen. Mrs. Harrison’s nephew remembers her possessing a painting of a girl dressed in white, but it was not always hung as she rotated her pictures. No one seems to have considered that this could have been the portrait of Cassandra, but I shall be writing more about this story later on.
  As was the usual custom Ozias would have finished the portraits in his London studio, and kept them until he received payment for the second tranche of the paintings. Thomas Knight is believed to have commissioned Edward’s portrait, (Ozias certainly copied the Romney portrait of his wife Catherine Knight for him. It is a small oval miniature that he could carry with him.)
Uncle Francis died in 1791, and the two portraits were inherited by his eldest son, Francis Motley Austen, the second owner of the portrait.
Anne Rice June 2011

Next time, Mrs. Rice will be writing about Francis Motley Austen, the second owner of the portrait.

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