Visiting Jane Austen’s Portrait in London

Hidden in plain sight, in the Regency rooms of the National Portrait Gallery, rests the famous, yet so very faint, portrait of Jane made  by her sister Cassandra. I must tell you all about the exquisite encounter but first I will tell you how to get there because this blog aims to help you be the best Janeite you can be. If you have never been to the gallery before, this post is perfect for you because finding it might be tricky. Don’t worry. I will tell you how to get there in no time.

First take the underground (subway) from wherever you are in London making sure you get off at Leicester Square (Picadilly Line or Northern Line) or Charing Cross Underground Station (Bakerloo Line or Northern Line). If you pick Charing Cross you will be able to enjoy the beautiful Trafalgar Square on your way to the gallery. Right across from the square you will notice a rather majestic building up the steps – that is the National Gallery – still worth a visit but NOT where the portrait is. The National Portrait Gallery sits behind it at St. Martin’s Place around the corner.

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Photo of National Gallery at sunset by All Things Jane Austen

Here is a map with aerial view to understand better where the entrance is. The buildings are adjacent but you have to go around the corner to enter right on St. Martin’s Place. Below the map a picture of the actual building you are looking for.

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This is what the entrance looks like! It is a bit smaller compared to the National Gallery but it is also very impressive by itself.

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Image from Wikipedia @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Portrait_Gallery,_London

The interior is beautiful and everyone is very helpful! Just ask for the Regency rooms and look for a stand. Yes, a stand. It is not on the wall. I was surprised but immediately understood why it is encased and sits on a stand by a corner. It is very small and it looks very fragile. I thought it would have a more prominent position but maybe it is the side I came from. Not to say I was quite frantic trying to find it. Then, it was right there in front of me. Finally! I looked at it and had the impression it was about to fade away and the only thing preventing it from happening was the case. So delicate yet so powerful because of its significance to the world. I never liked the picture of the drawing itself but it assumes a completely different role when you look at it and think it is a piece of paper more than 200 years old that was handed by all the Austens as they shared their opinions of the sketch and its likeness to Jane herself. Unforgettable experience. I truly recommend.

If you cannot make it there you can always watch my little video!

WARNING: the video below contains a very corny scene and if you are not passionate about Jane Austen, her novels, her letters, her story and her dear family, you will probably regret! By the way, I don’t know why I was whispering but it was not planned. I either have a lot of respect for the portrait and the gallery or I was just afraid people would think I was crazy since it was just me, the portrait and a smartphone. Ha!

If you have also visited the National Portrait Gallery please share your experiences with me leaving a comment below. It is very much appreciated.

Austenesque regards,

Rita L. Watts, J.A.A.

16 thoughts on “Visiting Jane Austen’s Portrait in London

Add yours

  1. I have always wanted to know why this is the only portrait of Austen and how it happened to be preserved, but I have never found any information on its provenance. Strange.

    And (whispering) a couple of typos I happened to notice — it is “sight” not “site” and “likeness” not “likelihood.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dorothy, thank you for whispering the typos!!!! I should have waited until this morning to review the post, instead of publishing in the middle of the night but my anxiety always gets the best of me. Thanks again!!!

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  2. The National Portrait gallery is my favourite gallery – its exhibits are manageable in one visit (as opposed to the enormous collections at the National). So many of famous pieces from its collection are in storage which is a real shame. i agree with you on Jane Austen’s portrait, magical but you have to be alert to see it as it is a very modest display. A tiny portrait with such a large story. If your visit does not allow you time for much gallery visiting (there are so many) this is the one trip to make sure you see. The location is very accessible even for the easily confused(like me).. If you have time take in a lovely concert at the glorious St Martins in the Fields – can you imagine that in the beginning it really was n the fields?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Joan, thank you for you lovely comment! I will make sure to visit St Martin in the Fields and also maybe grab a bite at the Crypt, have you? Do you think you could give us a link or book reference for more information on the portrait? If you read the other comments, our friend Dorothy has tried to find out more and said she was not really successful. Thank you so much for following!

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  3. I must admit that I didn’t know it was in the National Portrait Gallery when I visited there several years ago. I turned a corner…and there it was!!!!! I really only there to paintings/photos of my favorite composer…which turned out to be not available!!! And I arrived so close to the closing time that I couldn’t even visit the last few galleries.

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  4. Oh and I reread the post about seeing a concert at St Martins. Yes, yes, yes…My girlfriend and I went there afterwards. Very nice but the 6 Brandenburg(Col Brandon?!) Concertos together were very pleasant but a little difficult to be very excited about after a long London day.

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  5. I was in London about 15 years ago and went to see Jane Austen’s portrait. As you said, I, too was surprised at how small it was. I was alone in front of the portrait for awhile, and then a young woman in her twenties came and stood beside me. We both stared at the portrait, and then we turned and gave each other enormous smiles and little nods. For that moment, we were joined in our love of Austen, and then we went our separate ways,

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  6. Lovely Rita !! that´s why I couldn´t find it went to a wrong Gallery and was vacation time was so full that let to try later and never came back… but will try again and now in a right one 🙂
    Estou adorando seus posts, beijos

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