The earlier of Barrett's two Crimean subjects (see lot 107), the picture is an eye-witness account of a visit paid by Queen Victoria to the Brompton Hospital, Chatham, on 3 March 1855 to see some of the disabled soldiers who had returned from the Crimea. She was deeply concerned about the sufferings of her beloved troops. 'My whole soul and heart are in the Crimea ...', she wrote in a letter of the time, 'I feel a pride to have such Troops, which is only equalled by my grief for their sufferings ... It is terrible to think of all the wretched wives and mothers who are awaiting the fate of those who are nearest and dearest to them!' 'After luncheon', she recorded in her Journal on 22 February 1855, 'we went down into the Marble Hall in which were drawn up, to the number of 32, wounded men of the Grenadier Guards, who had returned from the Crimea. It was a touching sight, and one could not see a finer set of men, tall, noble-looking, whom it made one's heart bleed to see so mutilated ... I had meant to make some kind of general speech, but I was so agitated that it all stuck in my throat and I could only say to Col. Ward that I hoped all would soon get their medals, which they well deserved. Afterwards they had a dinner in the Servants' Hall.'
When she visited Chatham a few days later she was accompanied by Prince Albert, seen standing further back to the left, and their two eldest sons, the Prince of Wales and Prince Alfred, later Duke of Edinburgh. Seated on the bed and addressing the small Princes is Sargeant Leny of the 13th Light Dragoons (Colonel Doherty's Regiment), a veteran of the battles of the Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman. The soldier lying in bed is James Higgins of the 7th Fusilier Guards, whose 'appearance caused much painful emotion to her Majesty.' He had lost his left foot at the Alma but had managed to run forty yards on the stump to escape being killed. His leg was twice amputated and at the time of the royal visit he was not expected to live, although he did in fact recover. Seated on the far left is Private John McCabe of the 5th Dragoon Guards (General Scarlett's Regiment), who took part in the cavalry charge at Balaclava. He had two horses killed under him and sustained ten lance and sabre wounds on his body, as well as a sabre cut across his cheek and another which almost severed his right hand.
The soldier standing on the far right is Sargeant John Breese of the 11th Prince Albert's Hussars, who also served with distinction at all the main engagements, losing an arm at Inkerman. Following her visit, the Queen appointed him to her personal Body Guard. Seated behind him is the pathetic figure of George Barratt, a private in the 7th Fusiliers who at Inkerman received a six-ounce shot between the eyes. This was only removed after his return to England, leaving 'a fearful scar' and causing him to lose his sense of taste and smell.
The two uniformed officers on the right are Colonel Eden, Commandant of the Chatham garrison, and Dr. H.C. Reade, Staff Surgeon of the hospital, who holds a card describing one of the patients. The bearded figure behind the Queen is her cousin George, Duke of Cambridge. He had fought at the Alma and Inkerman but was so horrified by the experience that, to the dismay of the Queen, he had gone sick and returned home. Between him and Reade is a group composed mainly of senior military and medical staff, equerries and ladies-in-waiting. They are, from left to right, Major-General Grey, Mrs Eden, Dr G.R. Dartnell, Deputy-Inspector-General of military hospitals, the Hon. Lucy Kerr, Colonel Sir Charles Phipps, Viscountess Canning, and the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Hardinge.
Besides the obvious link of wounded Crimean soldiers, there are many connections between this subject and that of lot 107. The Brompton was one of three Chatham hospitals that Florence Nightingale was to visit in November 1856 in preparation for her work on the Royal Sanitary Commission on the Health of the Army. The Queen and Prince Albert were to play a key role in launching this after long conversations with Miss Nightingale at Balmoral and Birk Hall, the nearby home of her friend Sir James Clark, earlier that autumn. Lord Hardinge, who had succeeded Wellington as Commander-in-Chief in 1852, was held largely responsible in public opinion for the disastrous handling of the Crimean campaign. He was also to chair the iniquitous Chelsea Board of Crimean Enquiry which whitewashed the officers concerned and, in the words of Cecil Woodham-Smith, 'attributed the gigantic misfortunes endured by the army to the non-arrival of a certain single assignment of pressed hay.' When Hardinge was struck with paralysis in 1856, he was succeeded by another figure represented, the Duke of Cambridge. He had been a supporter of Miss Nightingale, chairing the meeting which set up the Nightingale Fund to train nurses in November 1855. However, as Commander-in-Chief he was less satisfactory, countermanding important decisions taken by the Royal Commission following the death of Sidney Herbert, her great ally in the work of reform, in August 1861. Two more members of the background group played minor parts in Miss Nightingale's life, Colonel Phipps and Lady Canning. Phipps, who was Private Secretary to Prince Albert, wrote to her father in April 1861 offering her, on behalf of the Queen, an apartment in Kensington Palace, an offer she brusquely declined. Lady Canning, the good-looking lady-in-waiting between Phipps and Lord Hardinge, had, as chairman of the committee in charge of the Institution for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen in Distressed Circumstances, in Harley Street, been responsible for appointing Miss Nightingale to the post of Superintendent which she held when she was asked to go to the Crimea. She had also helped her to recruit nurses for her mission. In 1856 her husband was appointed first Viceroy of India where, after living through the Mutiny, she died in 1861. Like her sister Lady Waterford, she was a talented watercolourist, her work being admired by Ruskin.
Barrett must have made sketches on the spot from which he later developed his painting. According to the Morning Herald, the likenesses of the Royal family were taken 'from photographs placed at the disposal of the artist by the Queen, together with the dresses worn by herself and the Prince during the visit. The other portraits are from actual sittings, and all are perfect to the very life.' The picture was finished by the summer of 1856, when it was exhibited by Agnew's in London and Manchester to favourable reviews. The account in the Morning Herald continues: 'the artist has chosen his moment happily - his arrangement displays great skill, and he has told his story feelingly, and with the most perfect truth and grace of manner.' The Athenaeum too found it 'a work of minute truth and fidelity', the expressions of the heads 'excellent' and many of the details 'quite Pre-Raphaelite' in feeling. 'A finer subject', wrote the critic of the Manchester Guardian, 'has rarely been presented in modern times to the brush of the painter, and admirably has Mr Barrett treated it.'
Agnew's also commissioned a mezzotint from Thomas Oldham Barlow, publishing it, with a key to those represented, in November 1858. The Queen accepted the dedication, and had herself acquired Barrett's 'original finished sketch' for the picture, presumably comparable to the sketch for The Mission of Mercy now in the National Portrait Gallery (see lot 107). In January 1860 she also commissioned a small replica, the same size as the existing reduced version of The Mission of Mercy. Negotiations were commissioned through the ubiquitous Colonel Phipps, and Barrett was paid ¨105 in March. The picture was placed in the Princesses' Corridor at Buckingham Palace, but removed to St. James's Palace in 1901. Neither it not the 'sketch' are now in the Royal Collection.
Jerry Barrett (1824-1906)
Signed and dated 'Jerry Barrett 1856'; oil on canvas
Signed and dated 'Jerry Barrett 1856'; oil on canvas
In mezzotint (66.6 x 94cm.) by Thomas Oldham Barlow, RA (1824-1889) and published with a key by Thomas Agnew & Sons in Manchester, 20 November 1858 in an edition of 1025 of which 300 were artist's proofs
London, Thomas Agnew & Sons, at the Royal Exhibition Gallery, 162 Piccadilly, May 1856
Manchester, Thomas Agnew & Sons, 14 Exchange Street, June 1856
London, Leggatt and Hayward, Cornhill, Summer 1858
58¼ x 86in. (148.5 x 218.4cm.)
An album of related autograph letters and press cuttings is sold with the picture. It includes letters from the artist (2), the engraver, and Sargeant Breese, manuscript accounts of Private McCabe and Sargeant Leny, and the following reviews of the 1856 exhibition: Court Journal, 24 May 1856; Morning Post, 2 June 1856; Athenaeum, no.1496, 28 June 1856, p.816; Sun, June 1856; Morning Herald, 14 July 1856; Manchester Guardian, undated
Athenaeum, no.1596, 29 May 1858, p.693
Art Journal, 1858, p.191
Geoffrey Agnew, Agnew's 1817-1967, 1967, p.65
Christopher Wood, Victorian Panorama, 1976, pp.26-7. pl.14
Hilary Guise, Great Victorian Engravings. A Collector's Guide, 1980, pp.59, 73, 146 (no.68), 151 (no.93) (details of the engraving)
Matthew P. Lalumia, Realism and Politics in Victorian Art of the Crimean War, 1984, p.84, fig. 38
Oliver Millar, The Victorian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, 1992, text vol., p.l
Bought from the artist by
By descent to the present owner