The Five-Pound Work of Art

The economic value of art has always been at the forefront of the British economy and a topic of interest, but it seems in 2016 it became even more interlaced than ever with the birth of the new founded £5 note.


Seventy-year-old artist Graham Short has become a name for the British history books as he has engraved, using his micro-engraving skills, a 5-millimetre portrait of the famous female novelist Jane Austen on four of the brand new five-pound notes. Austen, a much loved British treasure, was the writer behind a plethora of cherished and classic status books such as Mansfield Park (1814), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Emma (1815) and many more. The artist has chosen not only to engrave the face of Austen, but he has also included classical quotes from these three novels around the face of Austen in a circular border like manner. 


The quotes read as “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more” from Emma; “To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love” from Pride and Prejudice, “A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of” from Mansfield Park and finally “I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good” from Pride and Prejudice also.


Graham’s works in the past have mirrored this strange and unique style with a portrait of the Queen being engraved on a speck of gold on the inside of the eye of a needle going for £100,000. He calls the process ‘invisible graving’ and works at night when traffic vibrations are lower, using a stethoscope to monitor the beats of his heart so he can engrave between them for steadiness.


Despite the large figures of his previous works Short is claimed to be unaware of how much these five-pound notes would be worth, but it is rumoured that they’re going to go for up to £50,000 each. The choice of Austen was interesting and thought out as she will be on the new ten-pound notes set to come out later on in 2017, as it is the 200th anniversary of her death.


Collectors all over Britain have been going crazy in the search for the five-pound notes and it definitely resembles a similarity to Roald Dahl’s fictional novel ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ (1964) as Mr Willy Wonka releases the golden tickets into the public for a chance to enter the Chocolate Factory!


The Tony Huggins-Haig Gallery in Roxburghshire launched this project and commissioned Short, therefore it is actually Mr Huggins-Haig who has distributed the five pounds notes. He has said to have spent them in England, Scotland, Wales and London, therefore spanning the entirety of Britain.


Although it wouldn’t be an easy task to spot Miss Austen’s face as the outline of the engraving is the only part visible to the naked eye, one would need a microscope to aid them in seeing the artwork properly. However, her face would be found next to the image of the former PM Sir Winston Churchill and the Big Ben illustrated on every five-pound note.


The artistry of our currency is one that may be overlooked but Graham Short has brought to surface a very topical conversation with the birth of the new physical currency notes that brings attention to and celebrates what is essentially British.



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