The lovely portrait of Edward Knight, shown above, which was thought to have been commissioned in Italy and painted in Rome in early 1790 while he was completing his Grand Tour of Europe, has hung for many years in the the Jane Austen House Museum. It is a familiar and lovely sight, the fashionably dressed Edward standing among classical ruins, in a leafy glade compete with grotto, a sight that would surely have pleased both Henry Tilney and Catherine Moreland.
The portrait has now been restored and conserved and is going to return on loan to Chawton House, which is now the Chawton House Library and the Centre for the Study of Early Women’s Writing, and, of course, was once Edward Knight’s Hampshire home.
The portrait used to hang in the dining room of Chawton Great House but it was sold in the 1950s and was eventually purchased by the Jane Austen Society and put on show to the public at Jane Austen’s House. That cottage also once formed part of Edward’s estate and was the home he offered to Jane, Cassandra and Mrs Austen and where they lived, with Martha Lloyd, from 1809.
The portrait has been restored and conserved and will be officially unveiled in December in the week that commemorates the 235th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Birth. How lovely and appropriate.
All this information has been brought to my attention by reading the latest copy of The Female Spectator which is the quarterly published newsletter of the Chawton House Library. I love receiving my newsletters and have been in receipt of them since the first edition, published in autumn 1995…I really need to have them bound…
This quarter’s edition, as ever, has some fascinating articles: a comparison between the writings of the philosopher Mary Astell and Jane Austen, and how girls learnt musical skills in Jane Austen’s era, in addition to fascinating news of developments on the Chawton estate-the article on the restoration of the Rose Garden is great ( but is much too short!)
You can subscribe to the Female Spectator on-line here or can receive it if you become a Friend of Chawton in the UK or a Friend in the US . The Chawton House project is admirable: the house has been restored magnificently and the library is well established. I’ve been lucky enough to visit it many times,and have seen it “rise from the ashes ” of its restoration in 2002 to its wonderfully restored state. I am always impressed with the house and the grounds and of course the contents of the magnificent library, and the dedication of the staff. It’s a worthy cause so very closely associated with Jane Austen’s life, happiness and family, so if you can join, do;)