Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Boer War Ceramic Nurse & Soldier - 1900
Porcelain ware - Size - 23 cm
Found - Kent, UK
Unsigned, hand painted, extremely fragile, numbered
Two of the nicest Boer War statues we have seen are a pair of a nurse, who seems pre-occupied even though a nearby Tommy displays a bloody chest wound to solicit some sympathy...

Women sought to do their part as nurses during the conflict, and more than one died in South Africa from disease and terrible living conditions they had to endure in their eager and selfless desire to attend to the never-ending stream of sick and wounded.

In the days before television, radio, and movies - far more than today - statues and busts were extremely important ways that people could stay visually in touch with events in distant lands. And in the war, military motifs were favourites, especially those showing the pathos of war.

Though these were mass produced, they are rare today because most of the others have broken. So much so that it is a miracle that these have survived over 100 years without damage.

Canadian Nurses: Most of the hospital in the war zone was done by men; 50 years after Florence Nightingale had sought to improve the standard of medical care for soldiers in the Crimean War, women were still fulfilling subordinate roles to men doctors and orderlies.

Canadian nurses went with the contingents to South Africa; above two nurses are aboard ship going to war with the officers of the Canadian Artillery, including John McCrae, front right, who was an artillery officer. In World War I he would go as a doctor and turn into a poet.

At Rest in Africa: Other Canadian nurses were already in South Africa. Sister Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue, left, had come from Quebec, Canada, to work in the sanatorium at Durban in 1893. When the war started six years later, she became the Head Nurse in the Convent at Estcourt, Natal, with responsibilities to look after a flood of wounded soldiers.

Worn out by a body she refused to rest - while there were still patients to look after - she succumbed in Mar, 1900. Three hundred people attended her funeral as the Dublin Fusiliers - many were fellow Catholics - escorted her to the grave site. She was only 31.

 

Parian Ware: The statues were made by pouring a watery mixture of clay or "slip" into a mold, just long enough to coat the surface, then pouring the excess off. Whatever clung to the walls of the mold hardened to become the statue. The watery slip accounts for the extremely thin and fragile figures that result. Busts made during the same period were made with a thicker slip and so are heavier and more durable because more slip would cling to the mold sides.

The figures are very simply painted, and bear mostly khaki paint, in various shades, but only on the front. In 1899, the demand for these figures was intense; no use to paint the side that would be against the wall, which no one would ever see anyway! (That was also common practice on many Staffordshire figures.) It all saved painting time, so they could be made more quickly and more cheaply.

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Canadian Red Cross Nurse - 1893-1900