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Light on Lady with Lamp

London, Aug. 7: The popular image of Florence Nightingale is of an earnest Victorian woman, the model of austerity, wearing a prim lace cap.

But a remarkable photograph discovered in a long forgotten album reveals a more carefree and romantic side to the Lady with the Lamp.

The heroine of the Crimean War and nursing reform was a recluse for much of her life and hated the camera. As a result, there are only a handful of photographs of her.

Although she reached the age of 90, dying in 1910, she sat for the camera only seven times or so it was thought. The discovery of an unrecorded eighth sitting has thrilled the Florence Nightingale Museum, London, which has been given the new sepia-toned picture.

The image, thought to be a Daguerreotype print, shows the nurse at the age of 38 in the gardens of her parents’ house, Embley Park, near Romsey, Hants, in 1858, two years after her return from Crimea.

Although clearly posed, the picture shows her apparently happy and at leisure reading a book, wearing a flowing dark dress and without her lace cap - a marked contrast to the prim studio pictures of her.

Alex Attewell, the museum director, said: “It is a quite staggering find because it is not the face that she usually presented. This is her relaxed in a society at Romsey that she felt at ease with.”

Mark Bostridge, author of a forthcoming biography of the great reformer, said: “She was unwilling to be photographed, determined ‘in no way to forward the making of a show’ of herself, partly for religious reasons (she was a strict Unitarian) and as she regarded any personal publicity as detrimental to the causes of public health for which she worked so tirelessly.”

The photographer was William Slater, pharmacist. The photograph was discovered with those of other local dignitaries and personalities in the mid-19th century.

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