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Bust of Mary Seacole
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Henry Weekes
British, 1859
Marble
H: 26 in.
95.SA.82

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The subject of this bust, sprouting from a cluster of palm leaves, looks out with an expression revealing the intelligence, compassion, and strength for which she became known in Victorian England. An extraordinary Jamaican woman, Mary Seacole traveled extensively in Central and South America, where she learned to treat yellow fever and cholera. During the Crimean War, she followed the troops as a sutler, one of the many people offering hospitality services and running inns, bars, and restaurants. In the Ukraine, in addition to running a hotel, she supplied medical services to British troops on the front line, remaining even longer than her fellow nurse Florence Nightingale. After the war, Seacole published her autobiography, The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, which became a huge popular and commercial success. By the time Henry Weekes executed this bust in 1859, she was a household name in England. Emphasizing her innate nobility, Weekes used a simple oval form for the chest, adorning the mature woman with only a necklace and the hoop earrings that she always wore. The unusual socle covered with palm leaves refers to Seacole's Jamaican origins, considered tropical and exotic by the English.

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