Friday, January 14, 2005

For the love of serendipity

Black 'Florence Nightingale' Portrait Goes on Show
LONDON (Reuters) - The only known oil painting of nurse Mary Seacole, known as the black Florence Nightingale, went on show at London's National Portrait Gallery Monday after being lost for years.

Seacole, born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1805 of a white Scottish father and a mixed race mother, not only overcame the treatment of women as inferiors but also the open racism of the era to make her way to the Crimea and nurse wounded soldiers.

The oil portrait dated 1869 by little known artist Albert Challen, shows Seacole in profile wearing a dark blue dress and red scarf with three medals pinned to her chest.

It was discovered by chance being used as the backing for a framed print.

Seacole, who was voted the greatest black Briton in a poll last year, died on May 14, 1881 at her home in London.
I love this story: a forgotten painting getting some deserved attention. I'm betting stock in Albert Challen works took a hike this week, too. I find it redeeming that, although her painting and its artist were largely forgotten, she is still immensely popular with the British people.

Everyone appreciates a good nurse, even over 100 years after the fact.

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