Museum Poetry: Lady with the Lamp

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published by Illustrated London News, woodcut, published 24 February 1855

On 24th February 1855, the Illustrated London News, published a picture of Florence Nightingale as the Lady with the Lamp.  According to Mark Bostridge, in his detailed biography of Florence Nightingale, it was either the work of J.A Crowe or Constantin Guys, a French Realist illustrator.  Either way, the Grecian lamp Florence nightingale held as she stood at the bottom of the soldiers’ bed, was not the one she would’ve used.  Instead, she would’ve used a Turkish lantern or a ‘fanoos’.  As depicted by Anna Neagle in the 1951 film, ‘Lady with the Lamp’.TFSNotes_AnnaNeagleAsNightingale

In the 1850’s, newspapers would’ve used wood engravings instead of photographs, plus Florence Nightingale was publicity shy.  I imagine as the reports came back about how Florence Nightingale walked around the wards at night with a lantern, no one knew what type of lantern and assumptions were made.  But then, is the image of Anna Neagle holding the fanoos, as poignant? I don’t think it is.  Perhaps the reason for the substitution was artistic license.  Whatever the reason, the depiction of Florence with the genie lamp became infamous.  She even held one in the bronze statue at Waterloo Place in Trafalgar Square.  lamp

The sculptor was Arthur George Walker (additionally he created the memorial to Florence Nightingale in the chapel at St Thomas Hospital).  The statue was made after her death in 1910.  In 1913/14 the Crimean Memorial was moved and the Nightingale statue, along with a statue of Sidney Herbert, were positioned in front of it.  I imagine the move was successful, as the whole memorial is very impressive, I love the fact that London is full of such statues.  The area became known as ‘Waterloo Place’ although it’s actually in Trafalgar Square.  So, don’t wander around Waterloo lookinng for it.Crimean War Memorial on Waterloo Place - London EnglandI was fascinated to read that, details of the move are stored in the national Archives in Kew.  This included correspondence between the Florence Nightingale Memorial Fund Committee, H.M Office of Work, Treasury Chambers, the War Office, City of Westminster, Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, London County Council and the artist Arthur George Walker in his Chelsea studio.  I would be curious to see some of the letters.  Recently though, I went to look at the Waterloo Place statue.   From a photograph, I used pencil and pen to create the picture below.  This week, my picture is a substitute for poetry.  P.s. it’s not as blue as the reproduction, I discovered that, that’s what happens when you take a photograph of a drawing on white paper.  Looking at the drawing again, compared to the newspaper illustration, I think it needs to be darker, especially around the bottom of the picture.  Perhaps, I’ll work on it a bit more.

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