Image: The Mission of Mercy: Florence Nightingale receiving the Wounded at Scutari by Jerry Barrett, 1857 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Derby Museums is marking the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale’s birth this year with a number of special exhibits celebrating her life and work, including a rare portrait on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, London as part of the COMING HOME project.

COMING HOME is a project which sees the National Portrait Gallery lend 50 portraits of iconic individuals to places across the UK with which they are most closely associated. These artworks will be available for audiences to see in local museums, galleries and other venues, along with special programming available for families and communities.

The painting, on loan to Derby Museums from the National Portrait Gallery – The Mission of Mercy, painted by artist Jerry Barrett in 1857 – portrays Florence Nightingale attending wounded soldiers at Scutari, Turkey, during her time there as a nurse during the Crimean War.

An English social reformer and statistician, Florence Nightingale is credited as a founder of modern nursing, and came from a wealthy, reformist Derbyshire family who had a home at Lea Hurst near Matlock. This is the first time the painting will be returned to Derbyshire since having been acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 1993.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery said:

“We are delighted to lend The Mission of Mercy to Derby Museums as part of our exciting COMING HOME initiative. We hope that sending portraits ‘home’ in this way will foster a sense of pride and create a personal connection for local communities to a bigger national history; thus helping us to fulfil our aim of being truly a national gallery for everyone, in our role as the nation’s family album.”

Florence Nightingale: Health and the Home – a special exhibition celebrating 200 years since Florence Nightingale’s birth on 12 May 1820 – will also open at Derby Museums’ Pickford’s House on 18th March to explore Florence’s work and her legacy.

Image: Portrait of Florence Nightingale, stipple engraving by Conrad Cook © Derby Museums

The exhibition will look at how health and care has been viewed over time with a focus on health in our homes, health advice and care in our communities. It will also include an interactive installation from Derbyshire-based artist Tan Draig.

From 24th March, objects relating to Florence Nightingale and the Crimean War will also be on display from the Royal Lancers Museum at Derby Museum and Art Gallery. These include a letter written by Florence from Scutari, Turkey in January 1856 on behalf of a 12th Lancer soldier, along with medals and watercolours relating to the Crimean War.

Tony Butler, Executive Director of Derby Museums said:

“We are delighted to bring these exhibits to Derby and to be part of the National Portrait Gallery’s COMING HOME project. Florence Nightingale is an inspirational figure of global importance, whose life and work provide a fascinating insight into the origins of our healthcare system today. On this important anniversary we are proud to be able to celebrate one of our best-known local heroines with our communities.”

Families can also join in the bicentenary celebrations with two special workshops to explore Florence Nightingale’s legacy: Crafty Tuesday Flo’s Foes at Pickford’s House on 14th April and Tots Make and Do Florence Nightingale on 22 May at the Museums and Art Gallery.