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‘Final’ photos of nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale up for auction

from Roseberys London

By Jack Guy, CNN

London (CNN) — Photos thought to be among the last taken of Florence Nightingale are among a number of items related to the famed English nurse going up for auction in London.

The small, sepia images were taken by Eliza Francis “Fanny” Pettit, who was Nightingale’s companion late in her life, and show the nurse sitting in an armchair, according to auction house Roseberys.

They measure just 5.9 x 5.9 centimeters (2.3 x 2.3 inches) and were taken around 1910. Nightingale died on August 13 of that year, at age 90.

“The family history behind these photographs leads us to believe that they may be the final images taken of Nightingale,” Jack Wallis, a works of art specialist at Roseberys, told CNN.

“We can be certain that they were taken in 1910, and as such almost certainly in the final weeks or months of Nightingale’s life,” he said. The photos were exclusively exhibited at the Florence Nightingale Museum in London, confirming their authenticity, Wallis added.

“What makes them so special is their personal, candid nature – they are informal shots captured for posterity by a close friend to remember a much-loved principal,” he said.

Born in 1820, Nightingale was an English nurse who became the first woman to receive the Order of Merit, for her efforts treating wounded soldiers during the 1853-1856 Crimean War. She became famous as the “Lady with the Lamp” because of her reputation for making rounds at night to check on the patients.

Nightingale went on to play a key role in formalizing education for nurses, setting up the Nightingale School of Nursing at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London in 1860.

International Nurses Day is celebrated every year on May 12, Nightingale’s birthday, in her honor.

Other items in Thursday’s sale include a travel teapot and silver-plated tea caddy, given to Pettit by Nightingale, as well as a letter written by housekeeper Elizabeth Bosanquet detailing the last hours of Nightingale’s life.

In the letter, Bosanquet invited Pettit to visit “to look on Miss Nightingale’s peaceful face.”

“She passed away quietly at 2pm yesterday resting on her pillows just as she had been placed the night before,” it reads, according to Roseberys.

“It was very peaceful and merciful and one is so thankful she slept away with no suffering,” Bosanquet wrote. “We shall all be the better for her wonderful influence.”

Wallis said that “it is very rare for a collection of this nature to come to market, particularly in relation to an icon of British history such as Florence Nightingale.”

“The collection really paints a picture of Nightingale’s character and the last days of her life,” he said.

It is expected to fetch £15,000-25,000 ($19,000-31,000) at auction.

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