Museum Poetry: Crimea painting

posted in: Museum Poetry | 0

This week, inspired by the Crimea section of the museum, instead of writing a poem, I’ve been looking at a painting by Elizabeth Southerden Thompson, Lady Butler.  The painting is, ‘Calling the roll call after an engagement, Crimea’ (also known as ‘The roll call’) and was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1874.

roll-call_Lady Butler

It’s an incredible painting and I’m in awe of her talent.  I love the muted colours and the composition.  It seems very realistic and full of pathos, I can almost hear the horse’s hooves crunch on the snow and the caw of the birds’ overhead as the exhausted soldiers wait for their name to be called.  Hard to believe it was painted so long ago.   Originally, the painting was commissioned by Charles Galloway but once it was shown at the Royal Academy, ‘crowds flocked’ to see it, so many that, ‘a policeman had to be stationed beside it’.   Amongst the many people who wanted to buy it off Charles Galloway was the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria.  Whilst ‘Crimean veterans vouched for the accuracy’ of the painting, Florence Nightingale, bedridden at the time, requested to see it and from her bed, it ‘earned her approval’. More can be read at


The painting was brought by Queen Victoria and is part of the Royal Collection.

Also, this week, I was much moved to hear a class of school children singing to one of the museum ‘s Florence Nightingales.  It was beautiful and exciting.  Especially, as I’m currently reading Florence Nightingale’s biography by Mark Bostridge and have just reached the part where she’s returned from the Crimea. index

I imagine it was a campaign to get through the letters, poems and songs written about her.  I believe the children were singing one of the ‘Lady of the Lamp’ songs.  I asked the teacher afterwards and she said it was ‘for an assembly’ and ‘there was music’ but today they sung accompanied.  I wish I’d recorded it.


Leave a Reply