The French Revolution Centennial - Jeanne d'Arc Equestrian Statue - Philadelphia, PA
N 39° 57.989 W 075° 10.750
18S E 484698 N 4424052
Quick Description: The brightest & arguably, most beautiful, equestrian statue at the Art Museum is of Jeanne d'Arc & celebrates the French Revolution centennial. Joan is on her steed, in full battle gear, preparing to engage the English enemy of the 100 Years War.
Location: Pennsylvania, United States
Date Posted: 2/7/2012 6:14:26 PM
Waymark Code: WMDNYJ
This statue found its second home across from the Art Museum when it was moved here in 1959 (25th St & Pennsylvania Ave). That is the year it was gilded, giving its bright gold appearance.
Bought by the Fairmount Park Art Association in 1890, the monument was at first placed at the east end of the Girard Avenue Bridge. In 2009, it was removed to repair a crack and re-gilded and returned to its current spot in 2010. The statue was was originally donated to Philadelphia by France back in 1890. The statue was sculpted by Emmanuel Fremiet, who fabricated it from the same mold as the statue in Paris by the original sculptor. (Thiebaut Freres, founder. F. Barbedienne fonderie, founder.) Today it sits on an island, surrounded by impenetrable traffic, crosswalks and ogling tourists.
An interesting bit of historical trivia regarding the statue: A haunting coincidence adds to the story of the statue. We know that in 1431, the 19-year-old Joan was burned at stake after being captured by the English during a battle in the Hundred Years War. Sculptor Fremiet chose a 15-year-old model, Valerie Laneau, for his sculpture of Joan. When Laneau was 77, she too was burned to death — while trying to light her evening lamp. Now walk behind the art museum. SOURCE
The statue can be best described as Jeanne d'Arc in her battle armour on her trusty steed holding her banner (flag) high. She, being a veteran of the 100 Years War, is portrayed as a warrior in this work of art. The statue was dedicated Nov. 15, 1890. Also, I hadn't realized it but our visit coincided with its 105th birthday. The bronze statue has a granite base and is approximately 180 x 56 x 86 inches with the base being approximately 100 x 66 x 120 inches.
Additional Information from SIRIS:
Inscriptions: (On proper left front of plinth:) E. FREMIET (On proper right rear of plinth:) THIEBAUT FRERES, FONDEURS/PARIS (Base, front:) JEANNE D'ARC/1409-1431 signed Founder's mark appears. Description: Joan of Arc astride a horse. Her proper right hand is raised and she holds up a flag in her proper right hand. In her proper left hand she holds the reins. She is crowned with a laurel wreath and clothed in armor. A sword hangs by her proper left side. The horse is walking with its front, proper left and rear, proper right hooves raised.
Joan of Arc Background:
Joan of Arc was a peasant girl, who believed she could save her country, France, from the would-be English conquerors, during the Hundred Years' War. Acting under divine guidance (or so she believed), Joan secured the confidence of Dauphin (later King Charles VII) and led the French army in a momentous victory at Orleans in 1429. Whilst at Charles's coronation at Reims, she was captured by the English and their French collaborators and tried as a witch. Unfortunately Joan was found guilty and promptly burned at the stake. In 1455 a retrial was ordered and the earlier verdict against the peasant girl was overturned. Joan not only became a national heroine but also a legend. On May 16th, 1920 she was canonized by Pope Benedict XV. SOURCE
Historical Trivia About the Statue
The replica statue of Jeanne d'Arc by Emmanuel Fremiet was acquired by the Felton Bequest in 1906 on the recommondation of Bernard Hall, the Director of the Gallery of Victoria. The statue was a second version of the original gilded bronze equestrian statue which is located in Place des Pyramides, Paris and was made from a plaster mould. The original statue was commissioned in 1874 by Napoleon III and was intended to help re-establish French confidence following their humiliating military defeat to the Prussian army, in 1870. The statue was later replaced by the unhappy sculptor, Emmanuel Fremiet, who believed the horse was disproportional to Joan and would always look the other way whenever he passed it. In 1899 Fremiet was informed that his statue was under threat by ongoing underground repairs to the street. Seizing the opportunity he brought the sculpture back to his studio and began fixing his mistakes. He made Joan 20cm taller and made the horse's neck thinner, changed the forehead and removed the rear harness. SOURCE
Final Remarks from SIRIS
In preparation to create this monument first commissioned by the French government for the Place des Pyramides in Paris, the artist studied up on the design of French 15th century armor so that his representation would be as accurate as possible. In 1889, when the members of the French community in Philadelphia wanted to commemorate their centennial, they arranged to purchase a cast of the original, Place des Pyramides Joan of Arc statue from the artist. They made a contract with the artist that there would be only three cast of this sculpture: the one in Place des Pyramides, the one in Philadelphia, and another one in France in the town of Nancy. The Philadelphia sculpture was purchased with the help of the Fairmount Park Art Association and was first installed on the eastern approach to the Girard Avenue Bridge. The original dedication took place on November 15, 1890. In 1960, the sculpture was gilded and relocated to its current site near the Philadelphia Museum of Art by the Fairmount Park Art Association. The SOS! survey notes that the sculpture was gilded in 1960, but was moved from the Girard Avenue Bridge in 1938. SOURCE