Monday, 5 January 2009

Gallery saves important Victorian portrait

The National Portrait Gallery has retained a 19th-century portrait of a famous black nurse thanks to £96,200 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The only known painting of Mary Seacole, a nurse in the Crimean War and contemporary of Florence Nightingale, shows her wearing medals awarded for service. The oil picture, by Albert Challen in 1869, has been on loan to the Gallery in London since 2004 after being discoverd by historian Helen Rappaport. It was uncovered at a car boot sale in Oxfordshire in 2003 and will now be on permanent display at the Gallery after being purchased for £130,000.

Wesley Kerr, Chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund Committee for London, said: 'This is a moving and powerful painting that brings to life the courage, compassion and determination of an important figure in British history. As a woman and as a West Indian of mixed race she broke many barriers to make a huge contribution to Victorian society.'

Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, stated: 'Mary Seacole is an inspiring figure and I am delighted that this painted portrait can now join the National Portrait Gallery Collection.'

See the History Today articles The Invitation That Never Came: Mary Seacole After the Crimea and Blacks in Britain: Mary Seacole.

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