What is believed to be the first statue of Pride and Prejudice author Jane Austen was unveiled in Basingstoke, England, this week as part of a celebration marking the 200th anniversary of the iconic writer’s death.
“I really wanted a lasting monument to Austen in our town center,” said local Member of Parliament Maria Miller to CNN. “We can honor honor our most famous — really world-renowned — resident, and it does also give us a chance to recognize women in public art. This was where she lived her life and it was the surrounding area of Hampshire that inspired her novels. It’s a hugely important moment for the town.”
The life-sized bronze sculpture was crafted by artist Adam Roud, who noted that there was only one known image of Austen — a watercolor sketch drawn by her sister Cassandra, currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
“Really I’d have preferred if that painting hadn’t existed at all,” Roud admitted, adding that the famous watercolor had been “hovering in the back of my mind” despite his desire to ensure that the statue remained “my own interpretation of her.”
“For the sculpture, I wanted a believable figure of a woman walking through the town square,” he explained. “No doubt I’ll be praised by some and criticized by others.”
As celebrants mark Austen’s death, a flower festival and a series of exhibitions will be on display throughout the area. Austen, by many accounts, is the most famous British novelist in the country’s star-studded literary history. She was born in Steventon, which is right nearby Basingstoke, in 1775. Before her death in 1817 at the age of 41, she wrote a number of best-selling and world-acclaimed novels, among them Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion.
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