Burton Mail

Servant sculpture is work of artist who gave city Florence


ASCULPTURE by the ground-breaking Victorian artist behind Derby’s iconic Florence Nightingal­e statue is coming up for auction today and I’m fascinated to see what it achieves.

Rare and unique works of art come through our door at Hansons fairly regularly but, for me, this is extra special.

As well as reminding me of Derbyshire’s deep connection­s to Nightingal­e, the founder of modernday nursing, it allows me to celebrate the life and times of Countess Feodora Georgina Maud Gleichen, or Feo as she was affectiona­tely known.

Her Nightingal­e statue has graced Derby city centre for more than 100 years. It was erected outside Derbyshire Royal Infirmary in 1914.

Nightingal­e advised on the design for the infirmary, which was rebuilt in 1891, as well as for an earlier rebuild in 1869. Consequent­ly, the Grade II- listed statue in London Road was erected as a gesture of gratitude by the people of Derby.

Most people are aware of Nightingal­e’s impact on the world of nursing. As a Derbyshire man, I am proud of her county connection­s, so much so I held a charity auction in 2020 which raised £18,000 to help London’s lockdown-hit Florence Nightingal­e Museum.

The Lady with the Lamp was not born in Derbyshire but spent happy times in the county. She was from a wealthy family who had homes at Lea Hurst, near Matlock, as well as in Hampshire.

Her impact had reverberat­ed through the generation­s but the woman who created her Derby statue may not be familiar to you.

Feo emerged from an artistic family – her father was also a sculptor – and she was blessed with a privileged background. She was related to Queen Victoria and that important Royal link deftly explains how the splendid work of art coming to auction at Hansons today came about.

The striking small bronze, signed by Feo on the base and dated 1895, depicts Francis Clark in formal Highland attire. Clark was related to John Brown, Queen Victoria’s favoured loyal servant and former ghillie to her late husband Prince Albert.

But his Royal connection­s went deeper than that. Like Brown, Clark was a personal servant to Queen Victoria. He was her Highland Attendant for 25 years, a role he shared with John Brown’s brother, Hugh. Consequent­ly, Clark was awarded the Victoria Faithful Service Medal for 21 years’ service in 1891, died in Buckingham Palace and is buried at Braemar.

There is no doubt Clark was highly thought of. Feo’s bronze underlines that fact. It was made in the year Clark died, 1895, and I can’t help but wonder if Queen Victoria requested the piece.

In one of her diary entries, she mentions Clark: ‘Wednesday, September 12, 1877...Francie Clark (with darling Noble), and Heir went with us...at one o’clock we had our luncheon, and dear Noble came in and was so good and quiet...’

Feo’s graceful bronze captures Clark’s humble smile and respectful demeanour. The work of art has an estimate of £1,500-£2,000 in our July 7 Summer Fine Art Auction at Bishton Hall, Staffs, and it deserves to do well.

Feo (1861-1922) was the eldest daughter of Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-langenburg, a British naval officer and sculptor, and half-nephew of Queen Victoria, and his morganatic wife, Laura Seymour, a daughter of Admiral Sir George Seymour, a remote nephew of Henry VIII’S Queen Jane Seymour.

Her father, having been largely disinherit­ed at the time of his marriage, initially adopted his wife’s morganatic marriage title.

The family were taken in by Queen Victoria and given grace and favour accommodat­ions at St James’s Palace. Her brother, Lord Edward Gleichen, became a career military officer and author. Her sister, Lady Helena Gleichen, became a portrait painter.

Feo studied at the Slade School under Alphonse Legros and then in Rome.

She regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy and the New Dudley Gallery.

Her major works include the 1906 bronze statue of Diana in Hyde Park, Derby’s Florence Nightingal­e artwork and a statue of Queen Victoria surrounded by children at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, Canada, 1895.

After her father’s death in 1891, Feo took over his studio at St James’s Palace. She was a multidisci­plinary artist, creating large sculptures for public venues as well as smaller objects, portrait busts, drawings, small bronzes and bas reliefs. She produced many decorative objects such as frames, chalices and small sculptures, sometimes for the use of the royal family. Anyone who has witnessed her work will, I am sure, agree that she deserved to be posthumous­ly named as the first woman member of the Royal British Society of Sculptures. Entries of antiques, collectabl­es, silver and jewellery are invited for our autumn Fine Art, general and specialist auctions. Free valuations are available at Hansons, Heage, Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, and free home visits can be arranged across the county. To book an appointmen­t, email service@hanson sauctionee­rs.co.uk or call 01283 733988. To view our latest auction catalogues, visit www. hansonsliv­e. co.uk

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 ??  ?? The Florence ightingale tatu hich as s tood n th city since 914, as th work Countess dora Feo” rgina Maud leichen, above ight
The Florence ightingale tatu hich as s tood n th city since 914, as th work Countess dora Feo” rgina Maud leichen, above ight
 ??  ?? Francis Clark was a personal servant to Queen Victoria for more than 25 years
Francis Clark was a personal servant to Queen Victoria for more than 25 years

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