Who Wants Mr. Darcy Hanging Around Your House – – All the Time?

Portrait of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy (1995)The portrait of actor Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the 1995 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice is on the block on January 21st through Bonhams Auction House in London and available to the highest bidder. This may very well be the ultimate Darcy fan collectible. Not only is it a portrait of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, it represent the most significant turning point in the novel when the heroine Elizabeth Bennet gazes up at the Master of Pemberley and realizes that he’s not the chump that she thought he was; begins to fall in love; changing the course of novel and literary history; tra la! 

And what a clever plot twist Jane Austen devised in having heroine Elizabeth Bennet so moved by the depiction and what he entails, “As a brother, a landlord, a master,” that her reaction to the portrait adds a “more gentle sensation toward the original” and “regard with a deeper sentiment of gratitude than it had ever raised before“. Other authors over the years have recognized the importance of a good portrait and used it to their advantage. Hollywood has picked up on this also, and I have been fascinated over the years how often it pops up in films. The most famous movie portrait is probably from the 1944 film-noir classic Laura, starring Gene Tierney as Laura Hunt whose hauntingly beautiful portrait moves the detective Mark Dana Andrews gazes at the portrait of Gene Tierney as Laura (1944)McPherson played by Dana Andrews to fall in love with her even though he is investigating her murder. Another great movie portrait is shown in Gone With the Wind. The vain heroine Scarlett O’Hara Butler has just given birth, and as the father Rhett Butler toasts his wife and new daughter, we see a huge full length portrait of Scarlett in the background looking down supremely over the scene. From that moment on the plot significantly changes when Scarlett decides she is too fat from the baby and will have no more, spurning her husband from their bed and ruining their love. The ultimate movie portrait gone bad is in the 1945 Gothic classic, The Picture of Dorian Gray based on the 1891 novel by Oscar Wilde in which a vain plea by the young handsome hero to never grow old is mysteriously granted, but his portrait grotesquely ages, ultimatley destorying him. Jane Austen knew of the power of the portrait, but her predecessors have never reached the impact that she achieved in one brief passage in the novel. 

A more flattering view of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, (1995)The Darcy portrait has never been one of my favorites. I have always thought that it was not very flattering to either entities, Mr. Darcy or Mr. Firth. It made them look stout and way too middle-aged, which either was not. It appears that during the production of the 1995 miniseries the portrait had an even worse beginning and improvements were made to try to give Mr. Darcy a more favorable interpretation. You can read the full story written by Colin Firth in the letter that accompanies the lucky winner of the portrait. The proceeds of the auction will benefit charities, though its provenance is not mentioned. One wonders out loud if it has been in Firth’s possession and he was ready to pass it on so to speak. I can’t blame him really, because it is not his best likeness. However, from the viewpoint of a national treasure, that is another story, which some deep pocket or Jane Austen institution will be happy to supplant equal measure in pewter to Bonhams for the sheer pleasure of having Mr. Darcy gaze at them all day long!

6 thoughts on “Who Wants Mr. Darcy Hanging Around Your House – – All the Time?

  1. I completely agree with you on the Darcy/Firth portrait.

    Laura is one of my all time favorite films. “When a dame gets killed she doesn’t worry how she looks.” I would take Dana Andrews over Colin Firth in a heartbeat.

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  2. Your mentioning Laura reminds me of another noir classic in which a portrait is shown, albeit briefly: The Big Sleep. I can’t remember if it’s in the movie though. In the opening chapter (second page, actually), two portraits make an appearance.

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  3. Hello Laurel Ann… thanks for this great post on movies and portraits! I agree about the Firth rendition…perhaps why he wants to auction it off!…but I would still find a place to hang it if it should miraculously appear, my “Great Hall” sadly lacking in interest. The other movies you mention are superb, Laura being one of my favorites, so haunting and remains with us because of the visual aspect of her portrait ~ the “power of the portrait” as you say. Wilde’s “Dorian Gray” always freaked me out and rightfully so (and I also never have forgotten it either!)…so thanks for bringing all these memories back to the fore!
    Best,
    deb

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  4. Wonderful post! And all the links too, especially Colin’s letter. Middle-aged looking or not, this picture captures an image that can withstand the test of time. As Colin says, the figure in it is the only one not changing, growing old, to be exact.

    Coincidentally, Colin Firth is in a new re-make of Dorian Gray, a movie coming out later this year. I’m sure that picture will not be autioned off.

    Thanks Laurel Ann for a most interesting and informative article.

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