The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), Reformer of hospital nursing and of the Army Medical Services

Reformer of Army medical services and of nursing organization; born 12 May 1820, in Florence, Italy. Educated by her father in England; paid formative visits to Institution of Deaconesses, Kaiserswerth am Rhein, 1850 and 1851; first administrative post, at Establishment for Gentlewomen during illness in London (1853–4), cut short by an invitation from Sidney Herbert to take nurses to Crimea, and to ‘organize and superintend’ the hospitals at Scutari, where she arrived 4 November 1854 and remained until 28 July 1856, visiting the war zones (1855, 1856) and succumbing to bouts of ‘Crimean fever’ (brucellosis); back in England, after an encouraging meeting with Queen Victoria, began lobbying and writing reports for Army medical service reform; moved to the Burlington Hotel, London 1856, shunning her family; fell ill (‘the collapse of August 1857 was the beginning of Miss Nightingale’s retirement as an invalid’) [1] though continued to fight her causes; fellow of the Royal Statistical Society 1859; published the best-seller Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not, and suffered recurrence of the Crimean brucellosis, 1860; much involved in the Nightingale School and Home for Nurses, St Thomas’ Hospital, London (opened 1860); also advised widely on hospital design and army sanitation; moved to 10 South Street, Park Lane 1865, which her father bought for her and where she lived for the next 45 years; turned her attention to health and sanitation in rural India 1860s–1890s, producing important publications, while from the 1880s her own health improved; OM 1907, the first woman to be so honoured; died in her sleep 13 August 1910 at South Street, and (the offer of a Westminster Abbey burial declined by relatives) buried next to her parents at East Wellow, Hampshire.


Elizabeth Gaskell’s impression of Nightingale in 1854, just weeks before departure for Crimea:

She is tall; very slight and willowy in figure; thick, shortish, rich brown hair; very delicate complexion; grey eyes, which are generally pensive and drooping, but which when they choose can be the merriest eyes I ever saw; and perfect teeth, making her smile the sweetest I ever saw. … Dress her up in black silk high up to the long white round throat, and with a black shawl on – and you may get near an idea of her perfect grace and lovely appearance. [2]

Queen Victoria’s impression in 1856, soon after her return:

I had expected a rather cold, stiff, reserved person, instead of which, she is gentle, pleasing & engaging, most ladylike, & so clever, clear & comprehensive in her views of everything. Her mind is solely & entirely taken up with the one object, to which she has sacrificed her health, & devoted herself like a saint. But she is entirely free of absurd enthusiasm, without a grain of ‘exaltation’, which so often leads to over strained religious views, – truly simple, quite pious in her action, & her views, yet without the slightest display of religion or a particle of humbug. … She is tall, & slight, with fine dark eyes, & must have been very pretty, but now she looks very thin & care worn. [3]

From Harriet Martineau’s obituary of Nightingale:

Though dozens of portraits were put forth as hers during the Crimean War which were spurious, or were wholly unlike, her general appearance was well known – the tall, slender figure, the intelligent, agreeable countenance, and the remarkable mixture of reserve and simplicity in her expression and manner … She was the most quiet and natural of all ladylike women; presenting no points for special observation, but good sense and cultivation as to mind, and correctness in demeanour and manners. [4]

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) Woodham-Smith 1950, p.302.
2) Letter from E. Gaskell to C. Winkworth, 20 Oct. 1854, quoted in O’Malley 1931, p.208.
3) Queen Victoria’s Journals, vol. 42, p.152, RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 21 Sep. 1856 (Princess Beatrice’s copies).
4) H. Martineau, ‘Death of Miss Nightingale’, Daily News, 15 Aug. 1910. Martineau wrote the obituary in 1857, when Nightingale was ill and believed to be dying.

Referencesback to top

Argyll/Lorne 1901
Argyll, J.D.S. Campbell, Duke of (formerly Marquess of Lorne), V.R.I.: Her Life and Empire, London, 1901.

Baly & Matthew 2004
Baly, M.E., and H.C.G. Matthew, ‘Nightingale, Florence (1820–1910)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004; online ed., Jan. 2011.

Bostridge 2008
Bostridge, M., Florence Nightingale: The Woman and Her Legend, London, 2008.

Burgess 1973
Burgess, R., Portraits of Doctors and Scientists in the Wellcome Institute of the History of Medicine, London, 1973.

Cavanagh 2007
Cavanagh, T., Public Sculpture of South London, Liverpool, 2007

Clarke 1858
Clarke, M.C., World-Noted Women; or, Types of Womanly Attributes of all Lands and Ages, New York, 1858

Cook 1914
Cook, E.T., The Life of Florence Nightingale, 2 vols, London, 1914.

Crawford 2003
Crawford, E., The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866–1928, London, 2003.

Cruikshank 1857
P. Cruikshank, The Comic History of the Russian War, London, 1857.

[Daily News] 1910
[Daily News, publ.], The Year 1910 Illustrated: A Record of Notable Achievements and Events, London and Manchester, 1910.

Dossey 1999
Dossey, B.M., Florence Nightingale: Mystic, Visionary, Healer, Springhouse, PA, 1999.

Duyckinck 1873
Duyckinck, E.A., Portrait Gallery of Eminent Men and Women of Europe and America, 2 vols, New York, 1873.

Elliott 1894
Elliott, M.H., ed., Art and Handicraft in the Woman’s Building of the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago 1893, Chicago and New York, 1894.

Fraser 2014
Fraser, H., Women Writing Art History in the Nineteenth Century: Looking like a Woman, Cambridge, 2014.

Furniss 1923
Furniss, H., Some Victorian Women: Good, Bad and Indifferent, London, 1923.

Gibson 1995
Gibson, R., Treasures from the National Portrait Gallery, exh. cat., 5 venues in Japan, 1995.

Gould 2004
Gould, V.F., G.F. Watts: The Last Great Victorian, New Haven and London, 2004.

Graves 1895
Graves, A., comp., A Dictionary of Artists who have exhibited works in the principal London exhibitions from 1760 to 1893, London, 1895.

Graves [1905–6] 1970
Graves, A., The Royal Academy of Arts: A Complete Dictionary of Contributors and Their Work from its Foundation in 1769 to1904, 8 vols, London, 1905–6; repr. in 4 vols, Bath, 1970.

Holmes 1910
Holmes, M., Florence Nightingale: A Cameo Life-Sketch, London, 1910.

Huxley 1975
Huxley, E., Florence Nightingale, London, 1975.

Johnson 1975
Johnson, J., Works Exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists 1824–93, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1975.

Joyner 1997
Joyner, P., Artists in Wales, c.1740–c.1851, Aberystwyth, 1997.

Keller 2013
Keller, U., The Ultimate Spectacle A Visual History of the Crimean War, New York and London, 2013.

Lalumia 1984
Lalumia, M.P., Realism and Politics in Victorian Art of the Crimean War, Ann Arbor, MI, 1984.

Leslie 1978
Leslie, A.B., Frances Amicia de Biden Footner, 1874–1961, 1978 (typescript list of works, copy NPG Archive).

Lieuallen 2002
Lieuallen, R., ‘A Sculptor for Scotland: The Life and Work of Sir John Robert Steell, 1804–1892’, PhD thesis, 2 vols, University of Edinburgh, 2002.

Logan 2008
Logan, D.A., ed., Florence Nightingale, Lives of Victorian Political Figures, Part III, vol.2, London, 2008.

McDonald 2001
McDonald. L., ed., The Collected Works of Florence Nightingale, Vol.1: Florence Nightingale – An Introduction to Her Life and Family Waterloo, ON, 2001.

McDonald 2005
McDonald, L., ed., The Collected Works of Florence Nightingale, Vol.8: Florence Nightingale on Women, Medicine, Midwifery and Prostitution, Waterloo ON, 2005.

McDonald 2010
McDonald, L., Florence Nightingale at First Hand, London, 2010.

Mallalieu 2002
Mallalieu, H.L., The Dictionary of British Watercolour Artists up to 1920, 2 vols, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2002.

[Newman] 1910
T.P.N. [Newman, T.P., ed.], ‘Letters from Scutari’, Friends’ Quarterly Examiner, vol.XLIV, 1910.

O’Malley 1931
O’Malley, I.B., Florence Nightingale, 1820–1856: A Study of Her Life Down to the End of the Crimean War, London, 1931.

Paget 1912
Paget, S., ‘Nightingale, Florence (1820–1910)’, DNB, London, 1912.

Rideal 1991
Rideal, L., Double Take: Comparing the Art of Graphic and Photographic Portraiture, King’s Lynn, 1991.

Robinson 1866
Robinson, J.B., Derbyshire Gatherings: a fund of delight for the antiquary, the historian, the topographer, the biographer, and the general reader, London, 1866.

Rogers 1993
Rogers, M., Master Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery, London, touring exh. cat., NPG, London, 1993.

Sheldon 2009
Sheldon, J., ed., The Letters of Elizabeth Rigby, Lady Eastlake, Liverpool, 2009.

Shepherd 1991
Shepherd, J., The Crimean Doctors, A History of the British Medical Services in the Crimean War, 2 vols, Liverpool, 1991.

Simpson 1856
Simpson, W., The Seat of War in the East, 2nd series, London, 1856.

Smith 1895
Smith, C.E., ed., Journals and Correspondence of Lady Eastlake, 2 vols, London, 1895.

Soyer 1857
Soyer, A., Soyer’s Culinary Campaign: being Historical Reminiscences of the Late War, London, 1857.

Stearn 2004a
Stearn, R.T., ‘Barker, Thomas Jones (1813–1882)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004.

Stephen 1936
B. Stephen, ‘Portraits of Miss Nightingale’, 1936 (typescript, LMA, St Thomas’ Hospital Group, H01/ST/NTS/A/016/020/001-004).

Stirling 1926
Stirling, A.M.W., ed., The Richmond Papers from the correspondence and manuscripts of George Richmond, R.A., and his son Sir William Richmond, R.A., K.C.B., London, 1926.

Strachey 1918
Strachey, L., Eminent Victorians, London, 1918.

[Taylor] 1856
[Taylor, F.M.,] Eastern Hospitals and English Nurses: the narrative of twelve months’ experience in the hospitals of Kouali and Scutari, by a lady volunteer, 2 vols, London, 1856.

Tooley 1910
Tooley, S.A., The Life of Florence Nightingale, 7th ed., London, 1910.

[Ward, Lock] c.1884
[Ward, Lock, publ.], The Illustrated History of the World, for the English People: from the earliest period to the present time – ancient, mediæval, modern, London and New York, c.1884.

Ward-Jackson 2011
Ward-Jackson, P., Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster, Vol.1, Liverpool, 2011.

Wells 1866
Wells, S.R., New Physiognomy, or Signs of Character, as manifested through temperament and external forms: and especially in ‘The human face divine’, New York, 1866.

Werckmeister 1898–1901
Werckmeister, K., Das Neunzehnte Jahrhundert in Bildnissen, 5 vols, Berlin, 1898–1901.

Wintle c.1911
Wintle, C.J., The Story of Florence Nightingale; The Heroine of the Crimea, 11th ed., London, c.1911.

Woodham-Smith 1950
Woodham-Smith, C., Florence Nightingale, 1820–1910, London, 1950.

Yonge 1864
Yonge, C.M., A Book of Golden Deeds of All Times and All Lands, London, 1864.