Jane Austen's £10 'Katie Price make-over' causes outrage
Biographer complains that Austen has been given Victorian-style airbrushing in new banknote image
A ROW has erupted over the picture of Jane Austen chosen to feature on the new £10 banknote, with one biographer describing it as a "Katie Price makeover".
The 19th-century writer will appear on banknotes from 2017, following a campaign to keep images of women on UK currency. The portrait chosen by the Bank of England is an adaptation of an engraving by William Home Lizars made in 1869, 52 years after Austen's death. It was taken from a sketch by the writer's sister, Cassandra Austen.
But Paula Byrne, who wrote a biography on the Pride and Prejudice author, claims the picture is "a 19th-century airbrushed makeover".
She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Her eyes are overlarge. It is honestly like a Katie Price makeover of the funniest writer who walked this planet and she's made to look dim-witted."
She added: "It just perpetuates this image that Jane Austen is a safe, cosy writer and she's not. She's a subversive writer, she's a feminist, she writes about social class. It perpetuates this ridiculous myth of the safe Jane Austen. To make her look like a doll, honestly I find it unforgivable."
But Elizabeth Proudman, chair of the Jane Austen Society, defended the choice of portrait claiming it was commissioned by people who knew the author and was one of very few images available.
"Although her nephew and nieces did agree [at the time] that the eyes are overlarge, it seems to me that she's looking out of some fairly appraising eyes, she's looking out with a fairly sharp look I think," said Proudman.
"There's only one authentic sketch, so really we don't know what Jane Austen looked like, and the authentic sketch was done by her sister Cassandra in 1810 and it's not a particularly attractive picture."
Caroline Criado-Perez, who led the campaign to get more women on banknotes, has said it is "not really relevant" what Austen looks like. "Besides, to be a feminist, do you have to be ugly?" she asked.
Little thought is given to other portraits that feature on banknotes, says Louisa Peacock in the Daily Telegraph, so why the attention for Jane? "The conclusion, sadly, is that us Brits just can't shrug off the ridiculous concept that somehow women should be judged on their looks, not what they've done, or contributed to society." ·