As we come to the close of this fascinating history of the Rice Portrait provenance, I'd like to tell you about a new website, which gives more detail and information about the painting. The Rice Portrait of Jane Austen is to be found at www.janeaustenriceportrait.co.uk, and will cover every aspect of the portrait's history from its provenance to concerns and addresses the Mary Anne Campion attribution, amongst other matters. It is a work in progress, and more pages are being added daily!
And now, I'd like to thank Mrs. Rice for joining us again to tell us about the tenth owner, Edward Rice, and poignantly, about her late husband, Henry Rice, the eleventh owner of the portrait.
Edward Rice 1899-1973
Edward Rice inherited the portrait as the tenth owner on his father’s death in 1943. He married a great heiress, Lord Curzon of Kedleston’s stepdaughter, Marcella Duggan, and built a ballroom onto Dane Court, which was large, echoing, and rather draughty when I knew it. However, the painting looked well there. Unfortunately, Marcella and Edward Rice were divorced having had three children, and Henry’s new French stepmother (who owned a home in Normandy) was an acquisitive and unkind lady. On Edward Rice’s death in 1973, she stripped the whole of Dane Court, sending most of the contents to Christie’s and Sotheby’s, and the rest to France. Very luckily, she was unable to take the family portraits, or the books, but she even removed the marble baths and wash hand basins, a clean sweep: (This last, however, she was forced to return.) My Henry, sickened at this rape of his family’s possessions, sold Dane Court and the estate in 1975. We were married in that year and lived for some time in Guernsey.
Henry Rice 1928-2010
My late husband, Henry Rice, was the 11th owner of the portrait, and it is because of his fury at those who doubted its authenticity, and the untiring efforts to put this right, that it is now known as the ‘Rice Portrait’. He minded the slur on his family’s veracity as much as the attack on his own truthfulness – as his old uncle remarked plaintively, “They may not like you, Henry, but what on earth have they got against the rest of us?” What indeed? I suspect it was because of his decision to sell the portrait to help his family; if money had not been involved things would have been easier. The N.P.G. (having decided their sketch was the only authentic picture of Jane) did not wish to buy it, although its provenance is ‘impeccable’, vide Chapman! So when Henry applied for an export license for the picture it was granted. It was about this time he also discovered the correspondence that showed Sir Henry Hake’s attempts to buy the portrait from his grandfather in the N.P.G. archive.
He was greatly helped by Brian Stewart, the Director of the Falmouth Art Gallery. Brian had written, ‘A Dictionary of English Portrait Painters’, (with Mervyn Cutten whom Henry also knew. He attributed ‘Jane’ without question to Ozias Humphry, (and also latterly, the large oil of Edward Knight, her brother), and lectured on this in New York. Sadly, he had an accident last year, 2010, and died not long after Henry.
‘The attribution to Ozias Humphry was recently confirmed by the discovery of a Christie’s valuation made in 1985, which identified the monogram of Ozias Humphry, and attributed the work to him in full. The monogram was impaired shortly after the valuation during Conservation work. The Brushwork, colouring, cherub lips, inconsistencies in drawing, and the characteristic habit of “Topping and tailing” (saving the highest quality of finish for the head and lower legs) are typical of the artist.’ Brian Stewart
The portrait thought to be Cassandra, literally the ‘sister’ portrait hanging at Kippington descended in that line, inherited by John Austen first, Colonel Thomas’s heir and nephew, then by his only child, Marianne, a daughter who married a gentleman called Smith Marriot. She was an heiress, and he was well heeled, so they emigrated to the South of France where they lived in a Bastide in Grasse, Maganosc, the Villa Mariquita on the Rue Auguste Renoir. They again had only one child, a daughter Charlotte Marianne known as May or Mai. She married firstly, a man called Dodgson, (a relative of Lewis Carroll,) by whom she had a much-loved son, Raymond, and secondly, a chap called Harrison, who died in the late 40’s. In 1951 she decided to return to her birthplace, France, her son had been killed in Somalia in the early part of the war, and the Knights of Chawton were her nearest living relations, indeed, they inherited her son’s monies on his death. May Harrison sent back some of her Austen collection to her Austen cousins, and also wrote to R.W. Chapman November 28th 1952 (from the Chapman archive in the Bodleian Library) saying she owned by descent, a portrait which she believed could be Jane Austen, and asking for an opinion. He sent her request and, (a now lost,) photograph of the picture to R.A. Austen Leigh asking for his opinion. The Austen Leigh family looked at the portrait (the letter is quoted below,) and returned the letter from Mrs. Harrison to R. W. Chapman. It never seems to have occurred to them that the portrait could have been Cassandra.
Extract from a letter written by R. A. Austen Leigh to Dr R. W. Chapman
November 28th 1952
Mr Dear RWC
As to the portrait it is charming and Margaret would like to believe it is JA, but after careful consideration today, helped by Winifred Jenkins, we decided against it being JA and thought the picture was more like the Zoffany girl than like JA.
Indeed, as it comes via Mrs. Harrison from the Kippington (or Capel Manor) stable, the Zoffany one belonged to a Kippington Austen, there seems quite a probability of it and the Zoffany being the same person.
But perhaps Adams will say that they cannot be the same person owing to the costume!
Many thanks for your note about the Knight pictures. I knew they were coming up for sale – but not the actual date. But I don’t want to buy any and certainly haven’t got the money.
I return the portrait.
R. A. Austen Leigh
P.S. I return Mrs. Harrison’s letter
Henry and I met a nephew of Mrs. Harrison’s who vaguely remembered a portrait of a girl in a white dress who looked older than the ‘Zoffany girl’, (ours,) but being young at the time, could recall no more about it. By the time Henry found out where in Grasse Mrs. Harrison could be found, she had died, leaving no will, at the age, I believe, of ninety. However, this bore out our belief that Cassandra and Jane had been painted together in 1788.
Henry carried on his research valiantly until he went nearly blind before his death in January 2010. My brother and I have continued his work to establish the true identity of the painting, and will publish our results shortly. We believe in the painting as passionately as Henry did, that this is a portrait of Jane Austen executed by Ozias Humphry R.A. in 1788, and also that it will be recognised for what it is.