This, supposedly, is a portrait of the true gentleman who inspired Jane Austen's Fitzwilliam Darcy in the sublime Pride and Prejudice, ultimately causing several million readers to swoon for the character as well.
This three-inch portrait of Irishman Thomas Langlois Lefroy, which comes up for auction in London this month, is thought to be only one of two portraits of "a gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young man" as Austen wrote in a letter to her sister, Cassandra.
The portrait was painted in 1798 by George Engleheart two years after the two sweethearts parted. They split ostensibly because Austen, the child of a Hampshire rector, was not nearly of enough means for the law student.
"At length the day is come on which I am to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy," she wrote to her sister. "My tears flow as I write at the melacholy idea." Lefroy ultimately married an heiress and became chief justice of Ireland. Austen never saw him again.
Turning her tears into literary brilliance, Austen wrote the novel between 1796 and 1797 first under the title First Impressions. The book was ultimately published in 1813, four years before her death. Austen never married.
The ivory Lefroy portrait, with several locks of hair affixed to the back, will be displayed next week at Grosvenor House Hotel as part of an antiques fair. The asking price is 50,000 pounds or $98,000 and change.
Lefroy is, indeed, good-looking and pleasant to look at, but who would have ever thought the inspiration for Mr. Darcy was blond?
As everyone knows, the real Mr. Darcy looked precisely like Colin Firth.