From The New Yorker Page Turner blog:
“Last week, researchers unveiled new evidence suggesting that a long-disputed portrait does, in fact, depict a thirteen-year-old Jane Austen. The painting in question is a picture of a very pretty girl with dark eyes and pursed lips, wearing a cloudy-white Empire-waist dress. Since the late nineteenth century, members of a branch of Austen’s family have contended that it is a portrait of their famous ancestor—but historians have disputed the claim, saying that the style of the girl’s dress was not in fashion until Austen was twenty years old.
“The new evidence comes from early photos of the portrait (taken in 1910, before the painting underwent several restorations) that reveal Austen’s name, the name of the painter, and the date 1789, at which time Austen was thirteen. If the girl in the painting really is Jane Austen then the portrait is the only professionally painted likeness of her—and it joins a sketch by Austen’s sister and, possibly, an unauthenticated drawing discovered last year by the Austen biographer Paula Byrne, among the only known portraits of the author created during her lifetime. …
“… We shouldn’t need a picture to prove that Austen was not always grouchy, or that she took her writing seriously. Nor do we need a picture to prove that she was once thirteen years old. But our reading of Austen has been visually augmented, so that we are used to reading her texts along with Colin Firth’s barely raised eyebrows and Gwyneth Paltrow’s furrowed brow. Of all writers, she is one that we would like to visualize accurately, in the half-belief that if we could just get a good look at her, we would be able to see something more of her world.”