While the image of Florence Nightingale as the “Lady with the Lamp” has captured the imagination of many artists, Nightingale herself was notoriously reluctant to pose for portraits or photographs. AJN's cover brings to nurses a previously unseen photograph of Florence Nightingale that was recently discovered and is now on display at the Florence Nightingale Museum in London.
This portrait is one of only eight known photographs of Nightingale in existence. Thought to have been taken in May 1858 by William Frost, assistant to amateur photographer William Slater, a local councillor and chemist (or pharmacist), it shows Nightingale reading in the garden of her family's home at Embly Park, Romsey, Hampshire. Nightingale's friendship with Slater began when she ordered a medical kit from him to take with her to Crimea. She agreed to sit for the photograph as part of Slater's project to capture the local dignitaries and personalities of Romsey.
The collection also contains a photograph of Nightingale's sister, Parthenope, and one of Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, a neighbor.
The collection of photographs was passed down through the Slater family, whose beneficiaries have now donated to the Nightingale museum the portion of the collection that includes this photograph. The museum unveiled the portrait on August 7 to mark the 150th anniversary of Nightingale's return from Crimea. As Louise Selanders, EdD, RN, FAAN, of Michigan State University's College of Nursing noted of the photograph in the press release that accompanied its unveiling, “This rare find adds to the body of knowledge and understanding of Nightingale. The photograph was taken after her experiences in the Crimea and at a time when she was working on the philosophical concepts of nurse education and the foundations of health promotion which she published one and a half years later as Notes on Nursing.”
More information about both the photograph and the Florence Nightingale Museum can be found at www.florence-nightingale.co.uk.
Patricia D'Antonio, PhD, RN, FAAN
editor of Nursing History Review and adjunct associate professor and associate director, Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia