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Subject: Rice Portrait of Jane Austen

Rice Portrait of Jane Austen

From: Thomas Conroy <booktoolcutter<-a>
Date: Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Jonathan L. Roberts <jlro [at] btinternet__com> writes writes

>I am researching the so-called Rice Portait of Jane Austen, an oil
>painting attributed to Ozias Humphry RA ...
>... the argument against its being a portrait of the
>novelist has partly depended on a William Legg canvas mark found on
>the back of the portrait when it was restored and re-lined in 1985.
>The National Portrait Gallery in London has dismissed the portrait
>on the grounds that a William Legg  made his first appearance in the
>London Directories, as a colourman to artists in High Holborn, only
>in the first decade of the 19th century, too late for Jane Austen as
>a teenage girl. ...

On the basis of my experience with the London Directories of this
period, the *absence* of a name from them has no evidential value
whatever. In the last decades of the 18th century Kent's Directory
and its less-important competitors had, if my memory serves, under
20,000 entries for a city that was already in the neighborhood of a
million residents. When Robson's Directory began publication in the
1820s it boasted on its title page of something like 40,000 or
50,000 entries, and rapidly drove Kent's out of business; yet there
are still many plain gaps in Robson's. For the 1790s--indeed, down
to the late 19th century--there are many businesses known to have
existed which appear in none of the directories, or which appear in
only one of several competing directories.

I would suggest, with hesitation since you may already have tried
this course, that an investigation of tax and parish records for
Legg might help resolve the matter. I have no experience myself of
these sources, but they have proved fruitful in the study of
slightly later bookbinders and, I believe, printers.

Tom Conroy
American Bookbinders' Museum
San Francisco

                  Conservation DistList Instance 22:4
                   Distributed: Tuesday, July 8, 2008
                        Message Id: cdl-22-4-006
Received on Tuesday, 24 June, 2008

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