Public Art Around the World - Jeanne d Arc Statue


Jeanne d'Arc Statue

Jeanne d'Arc Statue, sculptor Emmanuel Fremiet, State Library of Victoria, Australia

Public Art: Jeanne d'Arc Statue (AKA Joan of Arc)

Sculptor: Replica of statue by French sculptor Emmanuel Fremiet.

Date: Unveiled 4th of February 1907.

Description: Bronze statue of Jeanne d'Arc in her battle armour on her trusty steed holding her banner (flag) high.

Cost : £1,800

Location: Outside the State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne, Australia.

Funded By: The Felton Bequest in 1906

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.

History: 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 (read more in Trivia further down the page) 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. 

Where Are The Replica's ?: There have been several replica's cast of the Jeanne d'Arc Statue. One can be found in Portland, Oregon, (Laurelhurst) which was erected as a tribute to the fallen soldiers of World War I and was cast in 1924. Another can be found in New Orleans, Louisiana on Decatur Street, French Quarter. It was erected in 1972 and was a gift from the People of France to the City of New Orleans. Yet another in Philadelphia was erected in 1890 at the Girard Avenue bridge. It was relocated in 1960, to its current location near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Trivia: It could be argued that Emmanuel Fremiet's great knowledge of the animal form led to his unfortunate habit of never being satisfied with his work. A true perfectionist, he was extremely irritated with the original Jeanne d'Arc statue. Stating that he thought the horse was not of the same scale as the rider. In 1889 the City of Nancy requested a reproduction of the statue. This gave him the opportunity to reduce the size of the horse and make a few other changes, including adding a muzzle to hide the horse's head and removing the harness around the rear. The new and improved reproduction, led to the removal of the original statue in Paris. Oh yes the Jeanne d'Arc is not the original! It is in fact a copy of the city of Nancy's statue (who knew?). It was replaced about 10 years after it was first erected. However this didn't go unnoticed, creating a stir amongst the people of France and his peers, who believed an artist should never modify a work already displayed in public.

The model for Joan was Marianna Mattiocco, the wife of Australian painter Peter Russell.

The Melbourne replica, unlike the original, is not gilded.

Following the canonization of Joan in 1920 the French statue, became a place of pilgrimage for the royalist and traditionalist parties of France.

The New Orleans statue, known as the "Maid of Orleans"  was originally sent to the city in 1958 by Robert Whyte of the World House in New York. Unfortunately, when Joan arrived, the city couldn't foot the $35,000 price tag to erect it and it was placed in storage for eight years. In 1960, Charles DeGaulle (then President of France) visited New Orleans and simply fell in love with the city. On his return to France, DeGaulle, contacted a few citizens in both France and New Orleans, requesting they invest in a fund to erect the statue. In 1972, it was finally removed from storage and placed on a 17-foot pedestal on the Place de France at the foot of Canal Street (later to be relocated to the French Quarter following the building of a casino and lengthy legal actions). In 1985 the statue was gilded.







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