This is the earliest of the so-called 'imaginary' portraits of Jane Austen, thus listed by Deirdre Le Faye in her article 'Imaginary Portraits of Jane Austen' in Jane Austen Society Report, 2007, pp. 42-52 (a copy of which is included with the lot).
Le Faye suggests that the portrait 'could be as early as 1818', one year after Austen's death. Le Faye comments: 'This might well be a creation by the Revd William Jones (1777-1821), curate and vicar of Broxbourne and Hoddesdon - or if not him, someone with very similar interests. On 17th April 1818 Mr Jones confided to his diary: "Whenever I am much 'taken with' an author, I generally draw his or her likeness in my own fancy..." The artist, whoever he/she may have been, seems to have read Henry's "Biographical Notice [of the Author", by Jane Austen's brother Henry in the four volumes of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in 1817] and invented the portrait accordingly, depicting a thin, large-nosed, well-dressed middle-aged lady set against a background of a swagged curtain, classical columns, and cathedral tower. She is sitting at a small round table, quill and notebook in hand and with eyes upraised apparently seeking literary inspiration from the heavens. The elements of the portrait are symbolic - her closely-fitting long-sleeved dress suggests sober respectability; and her various rings and necklaces demonstrate likewise that she was well off, not a poor hack writer starving in a garret. The sleeping cat on the table beside her implies spinsterhood - a pet instead of a child - and the cathedral tower in the background, vaguely reminiscent of Canterbury, harks back to Henry's statement in his last paragraph that "She was thoroughly religious and devout."'
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