Sunday 17 December 2017

'Historically accurate' Mr Darcy portrait reveals powdered white hair

A drawing of Mr Darcy, created by artist Nick Hardcastle, based on research commissioned by channel Drama to celebrate Jane Austen Season (UKTV/Nick Hardcastle/PA)
A drawing of Mr Darcy, created by artist Nick Hardcastle, based on research commissioned by channel Drama to celebrate Jane Austen Season (UKTV/Nick Hardcastle/PA)

Academics have unveiled what they claim to be the "first historically accurate portrait" of Mr Darcy - suggesting the literary heartthrob had powdered white hair, slender shoulders, a long noise and a pointy chin.

They looked into the "scraps" of description that writer Jane Austen provided for her famous character, po rtrayed in countless TV adaptations of Pride And Prejudice as tall, dark and handsome.

Austen's relationships and the men who may have inspired her character and the s ocio-economic, cultural and lifestyle factors of the time were also factored in by the experts.

They said that, unlike Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen's depictions of Mr Darcy, he would have had slender, sloping shoulders and a modestly-sized chest.

He was likely to have powdered mid-length white hair, a long oval face and a small mouth, a long nose, a pointy chin and a pale complexion.

Large thighs and calves completed the look, but at around 5ft 11in the fictional character was slightly smaller than the stars who have played him.

A muscular chest and broad shoulders were the sign of a labourer, not a gentleman, at the time.

Presenter Amanda Vickery, P rofessor of Early Modern History at Queen Mary University of London, said: "Mr Darcy is an iconic literary character, renowned for his good looks, charm and mystery.

"As Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice in the 1790s, our Mr Darcy portrayal reflects the male physique and common features at the time.

"Men sported powdered hair, had narrow jaws and muscular, defined legs were considered very attractive.

"A stark contrast to the chiselled, dark, brooding Colin Firth portrayal we associate the character with today", which has been "sexed up" with a "turbo-charged injection of testosterone and steamy romance".

The research was commissioned by TV channel Drama to celebrate the Jane Austen season.

Professor John Sutherland, Lord Northcliffe Professor Emeritus of Modern English Literature at University College London, who led the research, said: "There are only scraps of physical description of Fitzwilliam Darcy to be found in Pride and Prejudice.

"He is our most mysterious and desirable leading man of all time.

"What's fantastic about Jane Austen's writing is that Mr Darcy is both of the era and timeless."

Adrian Wills, general manager of Drama, said: "These illustrations might lead to a slightly different imagining of one of the most famous romantic heroes of all time."

Portraits to show what the fictional character would have looked like have been created by illustrator Nick Hardcastle.

:: The Jane Austen Season, which runs every Sunday from February 12 to March 19, includes Pride And Prejudice, Sense And Sensibility, Emma and Mansfield Park.

Press Association

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