Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Visit to the Jane Austen Exhibit in NY


        My daughter moved to the city a year ago and this is the first time we spent a whole day together -just the 2 of us! First we went to :
A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy
at the The Morgan Library & Museum

225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street NYC
the exhibit runs from
November 6, 2009, through March 14, 2010
This exhibition explores the life, work, and legacy of Jane Austen (1775–1817), regarded as one of the greatest English novelists. Offering a close-up portrait of the iconic British author, whose popularity has surged over the last two decades with numerous motion picture and television adaptations of her work, the show provides tangible intimacy with Austen through the presentation of more than 100 works, including her manuscripts, personal letters, and related materials, many of which the Morgan has not exhibited in over a quarter century.

Only a small number of Austen's personal letters have survived. The Morgan is a major repository of her correspondence, with one third of all surviving letters held in the department of Literary and Historical Manuscripts. These materials—from correspondence to her beloved sister, Cassandra, to a letter to her niece in which all the words are spelled backwards (in her beautiful handwriting) , to "crossed letters" (also known as "cross-hatching," in which Austen, to save paper and reduce postal charges, wrote across the horizontal lines of text at right angles)—offer a remarkable glimpse into Austen's everyday life and relationships, as told in her characteristically witty and confident voice. There are a few lines cut out of letters by cassandra, where Jane probably wrote unflattering remarks about a family member or friend! Some highlights include a letter dated 2 June 1799 to her sister, which includes a drawing of the lace pattern of her cloak, and a letter dated 20 July 1817, written by Cassandra to Fanny Knight, Austen's beloved niece, reporting Austen's death:

"I have lost a treasure, such a Sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed."

Austen reports seeing a painting of how she imagines Jane Bennet, who marries Mr. Bingley at the conclusion of Pride and Prejudice.

"Mrs Bingley is exactly herself, size, shaped face, features & sweetness; there never was a greater likeness. She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I had always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her."

Scholars say that the painting she refers to is the Portrait of Mrs Q by the French portrait painter François Huet-Villiers. Harriet Quentin was a mistress to George IV when he was prince regent. William Blake's 1820 engraving reproduces the portrait. In the same letter, Austen suspects that Elizabeth Bennet, later Mrs. Darcy, would have different preferences:

"I dare say Mrs D. will be in Yellow."
I love Jane!

Circle of Raphael

Adoration of the Magi, ca. 1520
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, heightened with white gouache, over faint traces of black chalk
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910; IV, 29a

Rome after Rafael

This show was also there and includes great masters of the period, including Raphael, Michelangelo, and Parmigianino, among others. Also on exhibit is the Morgan's Raphael gorgeous painting, The Holy Family.

Then we walked passing the fashion district-clothes, ribbons and buttons and beads, antiques on another street and  down to the 20's and had Sushi for lunch-spicy tuna roll, tempura shrimp roll and California roll-yum.
Then went to Gracious Home and Anthropologie and Union Square window shopping and had coffee and tea and a delish cookie at Pret a Manger.

Perfect day!!!


  1. I would love to see this exhibit!! Thanks for the info and a few juicy tidbits, Nancy!! I have a beautifully illustrated edition of Pride and Prejudice, I'll have to leaf through it to see if there are resemblances there!

    How nice that you had a chance to spend time with your daughter in the city. When I was in my twenties and lived in downtown Chicago, my mother loved to have a day with me and I loved it as well. We had a ball. Eating, shopping, eating, shopping. I guess we need to keep our stamina up!! ;-)


  2. Sounds like the perfect day Nancy. I'm so glad you go to enjoy some special time with your daughter - and in NYC! How awesome. You sure did pack alot into your day. Hope you have a great week!

  3. What a wonderful way to spend time with your daughter. That was very interesting. I wish I could have seen the exhibit. Thanks for stopping by my blog.


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