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A Century of Giving

Florence Kingsford (Lady Cockerell)

Hymn to Aten the Sun-Disc


trans. F.L.I. Griffith, Egypt, 1906

The Fitzwilliam Museum: MS 8-1974

Florence Kingsford (1871 -1949), the wife of Sir Sydney Cockerell, was a talented calligrapher. She produced an important body of work before domestic duties and ill health took over.

The illuminated Hymn to Aten the Sun-Disc was completed in Egypt, where she was working for the archaeologist Sir Flinders Petrie, making drawings of his finds. The ancient text is attributed to Pharaoh Akhenaten, who worshipped the Aten as the creator of the Universe.

Here, a bold composition and clarity of lighting are combined with delicate, refined painting. The closely observed sail boats and the train of animals reflected in the smooth river surface, summon a recognisable scene of everyday life on the Nile.

Sydney Cockerell - who had a deep interest in calligraphy himself - described his wife's Hymn to Aten as 'a work of genius'.

The Director, David Piper (known as 'Pete') was also a great admirer of Lady Cockerell's work and was anxious that it should be adequately represented in the Fitzwilliam. This is one of a small group of illuminated books and manuscripts which were offered to the Museum for sale in 1974 by Florence Kingsford's son. A successful fundraising campaign followed in which the most significant contribution came from the Friends themselves

Florence Kingsford's illuminations are an important addition to the Fitzwilliam's outstanding manuscript collections. A tribute to her talents, which deserve to be better known, they also represent a significant link with the past, keeping alive Cockerell's ideal of the 'book beautiful'.

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