Final Photo Taken of Florence Nightingale Sells for Over $30,000

Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale in 1910.

What is believed to be the final ever photo taken of Florence Nightingale has sold for over $30,000 (£25,590) at auction.

Nightingale, who founded modern-day nursing, died in 1910 — the same year the photo was taken. The 2.3 x 2.3 inches photo shows Nightingale sitting in an armchair and was taken by her companion Eliza Francis “Fanny” Pettit.

Florence Nightingale auction
Auction lot. | Roseberys London Fine Art Auctioneers

The auction lot, sold today in London, included other unposed photos of Nightingale as well as a traveling teapot and a silver-plated tea caddy, which Nightingale gifted Pettit when she left her service to get married and which have been passed down the Pettit family.

“The fact that she’s smiling on one and they’re unposed means they’re practically unique,” says Pettit’s great-grandson Nigel Milton-Tomkins who says the collection is a tribute to the pair’s close relationship.

A work of art specialist at Roseberys tells CNN: “The family history behind these photographs leads us to believe that they may be the final images taken of Nightingale,” says Jack Wallis.

“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.”

Florence Nightingale in bed
Another of the photos sold, this one was taken circa 1906.

The photos have been exclusively exhibited at the Florence Nightingale Museum in London, which, according to Wallis, confirms their authenticity.

“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 adds.

The photo and associated objects have spent most of their life in a cardboard box in a spare bedroom. Milton-Tomkins tells The Times of London it seemed a shame.

“I thought that it would be an idea to let them go to someone that would appreciate them a little bit more,” he adds.

Lady With the Lamp

Nightingale was a trailblazing figure in medicine who quite literally wrote the book on modern nursing.

Florence Nightingale, circa 1860
Florence Nightingale, circa 1860. | Henry Hering.

She came to prominence during the Crimean War in the mid-19th century in which she oversaw the nurses and made a habit of making rounds in the night to tend to the wounded, earning her the moniker: “The lady with the lamp.”

She became an icon in Victorian culture and after the war founded the Nightingale School of Nursing at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London; the world’s first secular nursing school that laid the foundations of professional nursing.