James Andrews' Jane Austen portrait could reach $234,500 at Sotheby's

James Andrews' instantly recognisable portrait of Jane Austen will be the highlight of Sotheby's English Literature and History Sale on December 10 in London.

James Andrews Jane Austen portrait
The original portrait has rarely been seen by the public, despite having been reproduced many times

The work is considered the defining image of the beloved novelist and has been reproduced many times.

At auction is the original watercolour, which has only been seen in public a small number of times and has remained in the Austen family since it was painted. It will sell with a £150,000-200,000 ($175,908-234,544) estimate.  

An engraving of the famous portrait is set to appear on the Bank of England's £10 note from 2017.

"Seeing the most famous image of Jane Austen, for the first time, in a domestic sitting room was an astonishing experience. This delicate watercolour is so much more than a piece of literary portraiture: it is part of our cultural history," commented Sotheby's Gabriel Heaton.

"The painting was commissioned for the first full-length biography of Austen, which was crucial in transforming her from a novelist into a national figure. The portrait gave readers an image with which they could identify and which even seemed to embody the character of her work. This is the most important likeness of Jane Austen ever likely to appear on the open market."

Memorabilia from Jane Austen is rare and, as such, the market is incredibly strong. The auction record for any item related to the Pride and Prejudice writer is held by the unfinished manuscript of her final novel, The Watsons, which sold for $1.6m at Sotheby's in 2011.

Sotheby's also sold a ring belonging to Austen to US singer Kelly Clarkson in 2012. However, UK culture minister Ed Vaizey placed an export bar on the ring due to its importance to national history, and it was then bought by the Jane Austen House Museum.

Paul Fraser Collectibles has a fantastic stock of rare literary collectibles for sale.

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