Jane Austen portrait sells for £164,500 at Sotheby's

Jane Austen Sotherbys

The watercolour, commissioned more than 50 years after Austen's death, is considered the best likeness of her

Sotheby's has sold a watercolour portrait of Jane Austen which is widely acknowledged as the closest likeness of her there is.

The portrait sold for £135,000, or £164,500 including buyer's commission. The original estimate had been £150,000-£200,000.

The portrait was commissioned by the writer's nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh, a vicar of Bray, in 1869, more than 50 years after her death. It is based on a not terribly accomplished sketch drawn by that Austen's sister Cassandra drew.

The portrait has been reproduced innumerable times and an engraving of it will be used on the £10 note. Before its sale it had been passed down through the Austen family.

The portrait is not to everyone's taste. Paula Byrne, an Austen biographer, called it a "Victorian airbrushing".

The novelist Joanna Trollope disagrees. She said: "This portrait was commissioned half a century after Jane Austen's death, so it can hardly be claimed as a life likeness. All the same, it is all we have, and it has a lack of pretension that suits our first properly acclaimed great woman novelist."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Mark Brown Arts correspondent, for The Guardian on Tuesday 10th December 2013 17.23 Europe/London

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