Location: Riverside Park, New York
Artist: Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington
Jeanne La Pucelle, later known as Joan of Arc, was a peasant maiden said to have been divinely inspired to help liberate the French from English rule.
Joan of Arc (French: Jeanne d'Arc 1412 – 30 May 1431) is a patron saint of France, honoured as a defender of the French nation for her role in the siege of Orleans and her insistence on the coronation of Charles VII of France during the Hundred Years’ War. Stating that she was acting under divine guidance, she became a military leader who transcended gender roles and gained recognition as a saviour of France.
Joan was born to a propertied peasant family at Domremy in northeast France. In 1428, she requested to be taken to Charles, later testifying that she was guided by visions from the archangel Michael, Saint Margaret, and Saint Catherine to help him save France from English domination.
Convinced of her devotion and purity, Charles sent Joan, who was about seventeen years old, to the siege of Orléans as part of a relief army. She arrived at the city in April 1429, wielding her banner and bringing hope to the demoralized French army. Nine days after her arrival, the English abandoned the siege. Joan encouraged the French to aggressively pursue the English during the Loire Campaign which culminated in another decisive victory at Patay, opening the way for the French army to advance on Reims, unopposed, where Charles was crowned as the King of France with Joan at his side. These victories boosted French morale, paving the way for their final triumph in the Hundred Years' War several decades later.
After Charles's coronation, Joan participated in the unsuccessful siege of Paris in September 1429 and the failed siege of La Charite in November. Her role in these defeats reduced the court's faith in her. In early 1430, Joan organized a company of volunteers to relieve Compiegne, which had been besieged by the Burgundians—French allies of the English. She was captured by Burgundian troops on 23 May. After trying unsuccessfully to escape, she was handed to the English in November. She was put on trial by Bishop Pierre Cauchon on accusations of heresy, which included blaspheming by wearing men's clothes, acting upon visions that were demonic, and refusing to submit her words and deeds to the judgment of the church. She was declared guilty and burned at the stake on 30 May 1431, aged about nineteen.
In 1456, an inquisitorial court reinvestigated Joan's trial and overturned the verdict, declaring that it was tainted by deceit and procedural errors. Joan has been revered as a martyr and viewed as an obedient daughter of the Roman Catholic Church, an early feminist, and a symbol of freedom and independence. After the French Revolution, she became a national symbol of France. In 1920, Joan of Arc was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church and, two years later, was declared one of the patron saints of France. She is portrayed in numerous cultural works, including literature, paintings, sculptures, and music.
“One life is all we have and we have to live as if we believe in living it, but to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying” – Joan of Arc
The exploits of this heroine from the Middle Ages have been revisited by authors and artists ever since her death. In New York, a group of citizens formed a Joan of Arc monument committee in 1909. Their efforts coincided with those of a young sculptor, Anna Hyatt Huntington, to create a sculpture of Joan.
On December 6, 1915, the sculpture was unveiled, both heroic and infused with naturalistic detail. The over life-size bronze statue features Joan in armour, holding aloft her sword and standing in the saddle of her warhorse. Huntington wanted to depict Joan as spiritual rather than warlike.