Thursday 7 December 2023

Lot 281

A rare personal collection of items relating to Florence Nightingale, originally belonging to...

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Lot 281

A rare personal collection of items relating to Florence Nightingale, originally belonging to...

Price Realised: £25,584

Estimate: £15,000 - £25,000

Price realised is hammer price plus fees (31.2% Buyers Premium inclusive of VAT).

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Lot 281


A rare personal collection of items relating to Florence Nightingale, originally belonging to Eliza Francis “Fanny” Pettit, her companion in later life, comprising: two small original sepia photographs taken by Fanny Pettit of Miss Nightingale seated on an armchair, c.1910, 5.9 x 5.9cm; three prescriptions written for Miss Nightingale, addressed to Miss Nightingale's Maid, comprising a medical prescription from Squire and Sons chemist of 413 Oxford Street, London in an envelope, inscribed One tablespoonful in a little water, three times a day immediately after meals, dated 16th November 1907; an optician's prescription from 13 Upper Berkeley Street, Portman Square, London, inscribed Glasses (For all near work), dated 13th November 1907; and another optician's prescription, inscribed To be applied to the margins of the eyelids as directed once a day, dated 22nd November 1907; five handwritten letters addressed to Fanny Pettit from Miss Nightingale's cousins and one from her housekeeper Elizabeth Bosanquet recounting the last hours of Miss Nightingale's life; a hat pin that belonged to Miss Nightingale, late 19th century; a small rectangular silver plated tea caddy, by Leopold Oudry, late 19th century, marked L. Oudry dp Editeur, 7.5cm high, 9cm wide, 7.5cm deep; a Chinese export famille rose travelling teapot, early 20th century, in wicker carrying case, 14cm high; two sepia photographs of Lea Hurst, Derbyshire, the childhood home of Miss Nightingale; postcards to Fanny Pettit from the family and housekeeper of Miss Nightingale; an entry ticket and order of service for Miss Nightingale’s memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1910; a fundraising pamphlet for the Hospital for Invalid Gentlewomen; a framed photograph of Miss Nightingale in bed originally by Lizzie Caswall Smith in 1910; a collection of contemporary newspaper cuttings collected by Fanny Pettit relating to the life of Miss Nightingale; and a studio portrait photograph of Fanny Pettit taken c.1909 (lot)  

Provenance: From Eliza Francis "Fanny" Pettit and then by descent. 

Note: Florence Nightingale, 1820-1910, known as the “The Lady of the Lamp”, was a British nurse, social reformer and statistician who is best remembered as the founder of modern nursing.  Her experiences as a nurse during the Crimean War were foundational in her views about sanitation.  She established St. Thomas’s Hospital and the Nightingale Training School for Nurses in 1860.  She is recognised as one the greatest Victorians and a female icon in her own lifetime. 

This highly personal collection has been passed down through four generations of the vendor's family from Eliza Francis “Fanny” Pettit (later Gibbs), who was Florence Nightingale's lady companion for two years in 1906 and 1907 and lived with Miss Nightingale at 10 South Street, Park Lane, London.

When Fanny left Miss Nightingale’s employ, she was gifted two personal items by the great lady as a personal thank you for her service, a travelling teapot and a silver plated tea caddy.

By all accounts, Fanny was highly regarded by both Miss Nightingale and her family and after leaving Miss Nightingale's employment at the end of 1907 to get married, she was subsequently invited with her new husband to spend their honeymoon at the family’s country estate, Lea Hurst, in Derbyshire, where Miss Nightingale grew up.

Fanny's daughter, Eileen, was christened with the middle name Florence, in honour of Miss Nightingale, on the day that Fanny was informed by letter that Florence Nightingale had passed away.  In perhaps the most poignant item in the collection, this letter recounts Miss Nightingale’s final moments and how she was invited, by Elizabeth Bosanquet the housekeeper at South Street, to see Miss Nightingale at rest.  The letter, as transcribed below, is a moving reflection of the high regard Fanny was held in.


Dear Fanny,

This is sad news for you to have heard on the day of your little baby's christening.

I know how deeply you will feel it but I hope you will bear up for the baby's sake.

If you return in time and can manage to come round, I think you would like 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.

A change came during the night and we had to send for the doctor and knew it was grave and sent to the relations.

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

Yours faithfully

Elizabeth Bosanquet.


Fanny was subsequently invited to Miss Nightingale's memorial service in St. Paul's Cathedral which was held one week after her death on 20th August 1910.

The two photographs are informal snapshots of Miss Nightingale. They are thought to be the last images of the nurse taken in her old age at her house at 10 South Street, Park Lane by Fanny using her Brownie camera and have never been published. They were exhibited in “Nightingale In 200 Objects, People & Places”, at the Florence Nightingale Museum in London, 8 March 2020 - 7 March 2021, celebrating the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

The three prescriptions were also on loan in the same exhibition at the Florence Nightingale Museum and were displayed as “Item 130”.  During the Crimean War Miss Nightingale contracted brucellosis, a bacterial infection which causes fever, joint pain, extreme fatigue, and depression. The infection became chronic and as a result Miss Nightingale experienced recurring episodes of illness for the rest of her life.  She spent most of her later years at her home in South Street.  Towards the end of her life Miss Nightingale was supported by Fanny Pettit, who helped Nightingale with daily tasks such as taking her medications.  Fanny kept these prescriptions as a keepsake when Miss Nightingale passed away.

Buyer's Premium

The buyer shall pay the hammer price together with a premium thereon of 26% up to £20,000 (31.2% inclusive of VAT), 25% from £20,001 - £500,000 (30% inclusive of VAT), 20% from £500,001 thereafter (24% inclusive of VAT). The premium price is subject to VAT at the standard rate.

VAT is not charged on the hammer price unless it is stated that there is 'VAT applicable on the hammer price at the end of the description. Buyer's premium is subject to VAT.

Qualifying living artists and the descendants of artists deceased within the last 70 years are entitled to receive a re-sale royalty each time their work is bought through an auction house or art market professional.

It applies to lots with hammer value over €1,000 as follows:
0 to €50,000 - 4%, €50,000.01 to €200,000 - 3%
€200,000.01 to €350,000 - 1%,
€350,000.01 to €500,000 - 0.5%
Exceeding €500,000 - 0.25%
ARR is capped at €12,500

Please note ARR is calculated in euros. Auctioneers will apply current exchange rates.

Export of goods

Buyers intending to export goods should ascertain whether an export licence is required before bidding. Export licences are issued by Arts Council England and application forms can be obtained from its Export Licensing Unit. Details can be found on the ACE website or by phoning ACE on 020 7973 5188. The need for import licences varies from country to country and you should acquaint yourself with all relevant local requirements and provisions before bidding. The refusal of any such licences shall not permit the cancelling of any sale nor allow any delay in making full payment for the lot.

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