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Florence Nightingale receiving the Wounded at Scutari'

1 of 6 portraits of Alexis Benoît Soyer

Florence Nightingale receiving the Wounded at Scutari', by Jerry Barrett, 1856 -NPG 4305 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue Search

Florence Nightingale receiving the Wounded at Scutari'

by Jerry Barrett
Oil on canvas, 1856
16 in. x 24 1/8 in. (405 mm x 612 mm) overall
NPG 4305

Inscriptionback to top

Signed, bottom left-hand corner: ‘Jerry B[…]’.
On reverse of canvas, stamp: ‘WINSOR & NEWTO[N] / [3]8 RATHBONE PLACE’.
On back, two nineteenth-century brown paper labels stuck to top bar of stretcher, inscr. in ink:
(a) ‘Miss Nightingale / at Scutari / J. Barrett’, in Barrett’s writing;
(b) ‘J. Barrett’ , unknown hand, fragment of a larger label.

This portraitback to top

All her life ‘from a principle’ Florence Nightingale refused to sit for portraits, bar a few exceptions, and NPG 4305 was not one of them. This sketch is a preparatory study for Jerry Barrett’s painting The Mission of Mercy: Florence Nightingale receiving the Wounded at Scutari, 1857 (NPG 6202). Nightingale admired such a work in Barrett’s Scutari studio in July 1856. [1]

After the London success of his Crimean subject, Queen Victoria’s First Visit to her Wounded Soldiers, 1856 (NPG 6203), Barrett’s ambition was to paint ‘on the spot a picture of the wounded soldiers in hospital being nursed by Florence Nightingale’. [2] He set out for Turkey in spring 1856 with a friend, Henry Newman. The war was over but the Barrack Hospital at Scutari remained busy, and here in Newman’s words ‘Jerry paints all day long, having as models soldiers with the very coats, &c., which came down from the battlefields – torn, cut, blood-stained. We also draw from old Turk carriers, called hamels, who helped to bring up the disabled from the boats. The people who call upon us and watch the work are all military men […] and they take a glass of bottled ale to the success of the picture.’ [3] After much looking, Barrett decided on a scene with Nightingale at its centre showing ‘the wounded soldier entering the hospital by the gate next the sea, thus gaining a scene of great interest, and having a full view of the Bosphorus and the vessels which are at anchor upon it, Constantinople forming the distant background’. [4]

All this time Nightingale had been in Crimea. On her return to Scutari she agreed to meet the artist on 7 July. There followed two or three ‘interviews’, an exchange of letters and a viewing of ‘the picture’. But Nightingale refused to sit, and Barrett’s ambition to succeed where others had failed came to nothing. [5] She sailed for England on 28 July, two days before Barrett and Newman.

The figure of Nightingale was painted back in London. The head is loosely based on a photograph by Henry Hering (see ‘Florence Nightingale, All known portraits, Photographs, later 1856–early 1857, pose (a)’) but the position of the arm, extended and foreshortened, is borrowed from the figure of John the Evangelist healing a sick man in Raphael’s cartoon The Healing of the Lame Man. [6] Other figures in NPG 4305 are undeveloped, and the groupings differ in the final picture. The war being over, there were no scenes of Nightingale receiving ‘fresh cargos of misery’ for Barrett to draw: his tableau vivant references the conflict, and Nightingale’s healing role within it, symbolically.

As well as NPG 4305 there was another (untraced) Barrett sketch, the same size but differently composed and dated 1857: see ‘Florence Nightingale, All known portraits, Paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints, Contemporary portraits from life, 1857’. The Gallery sketch is generally regarded as the one Nightingale saw in the barrack hospital studio at Scutari: see areas of pentimenti at the left of her figure, signs of wear on the unrelined canvas, and inscriptions and several old labels on the back of the stretcher. [7] As in the finished painting there are about thirty figures in the sketch, but fewer portraits, and more soldiers, bearers and Greek and Turkish figures.

This picture was offered to the Gallery for £200 by the dealer Ian G. Appleby of 44 Duke Street St James’s, London, and purchased in April 1963. [8] In the same year it was restored by W. Holder & Sons, [9] and in 1991 was given a new frame (‘English c.18 plain hollow with shot and twist’). [10]

For related works by Jerry Barrett at the Gallery see NPG 2939, NPG 2939a, NPG 3303, NPG 6202 and NPG D43044.

Seven figures identified
From left to right:
Sir William Linton (1801–1880)
Sir Henry Knight Storks (1811–1874)
Miss Tebbutt (1810–1896)
Charles Bracebridge (1799–1872) (or Alexis Benoît Soyer (1810–1858))
Selina Bracebridge (c.1800–1874)
Florence Nightingale (1820–1910)
Lord William Paulet (1804–1893)

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) ‘On the 8th [July] she came to our studio, saw the picture, was pleased with it’ ([Newman] 1910, p.551).
2) See [Newman] 1910, p.543.
3) [Newman] 1910, p.548.
4) [Newman] 1910, p.548.
5) [Newman] 1910, pp.550–52.
6) Royal Coll., RCIN 912946, on loan to V&A. See Bostridge 2008, p.268.
7) The labels on the stretcher were pasted over a pencil inscription that is no longer legible: ‘[…] in [… hos]pital […] on the occasion of Miss Nightingale’s / […] being the day of her departure […] JB’ (recorded in NPG 107th Annual Review 1963–64, p.4).
8) See NPG RP 4305. The painting came with no provenance.
9) Removal of discoloured varnish, repair and revarnish; see conservation report, NPG RP 4305.
10) Frame purchased for £200 (the price of the painting in 1963!) from Fine Frames, Newman Street, London W1; see invoice, NPG RP 4305.

Referenceback to top

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

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

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

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

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

Conservationback to top

conserved, 1963

Provenanceback to top

Purchased from Ian G. Appleby, April 1963..

Exhibitionsback to top

The Substance or the Shadow: Images of Victorian Womanhood, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1982 (9).

Treasures from the National Portrait Gallery, five venues in Japan, 1995–6 (25).

Reproductionsback to top

Huxley 1975, p.67.

Lalumia 1984, pl.40.

Gibson 1995, p.89.

View all known portraits for Sir William Linton

View all known portraits for Florence Nightingale


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