July 15, 2014
Wax sculpture of Jane Austen said to be most accurate depiction of writer, is creepily made of wax
by Bradley Babendir
Jane Austen never had an official portrait of herself made. Despite being one of the most popular and revered writers to have ever lived, nobody really knows what she looks like. Her reasons for doing this notwithstanding, it’s something that a lot of people have spent a lot of time talking about.
Just recently, the Jane Austen Centre attempted to remedy this with a commissioned sculpture made of wax. According to Madame Tussauds, a wax museum in Hollywood, it takes approximately 800 hours to make a wax sculpture. This sculpture of Jane Austen, however, took three years.
While it may have taken a very, very long time; the creators were nothing if not thorough. Reportedly, the sculpture’s creation was created with the help of Andrea Galer, an Emmy-winning costume designer, and an FBI-trained forensic artist.
Eye-witness accounts and a portrait drawn by her sister, Cassandra Austen, were the basis for the creation. Coupled with a knowledge of many of the Austen family’s shared characteristics, Melissa Dring created a pastel painting that was then used as the blueprint for the waxwork.
The man who put it all together was sculptor Mark Richards. He seems to agree with the Jane Austen Centre’s assessment of his work. In an interview with BBC News, he said, “So, really, it’s the closest portrait there can be … to Jane Austen.” He later said, “if there’s a better portrait, I’d like to see it.”
None of these people, though, have said much about how generally gross wax is, or how weird it is that we ever started making replicas of people out of the material in the first place. Considering that the substances primary purpose is generally to make rooms smell better or remove unwanted body hair, it is far from the classiest of materials. Maybe they’re just less queasy than I am.
Either way, all involved seem to have accomplished what they set out to accomplish. However, I think it should be noted that nobody aside from the people involved with this project seem to have any idea what Austen looks like, so nobody can tell them that they’re wrong. Very tricky, team of people that made the sculpture, very tricky.
All wild speculation aside, the sculpture will be on display at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, so if you happen to be in the area and are not irrationally afraid of the concept alone, you can see for yourself.