The statue of Joan of Arc in Versailles

The statue of Joan of Arc in Versailles

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Title: Louis-Philippe and the royal family, visiting the Historical Galleries of the Versailles museum, stop in front of the statue of Joan of Arc ...

Author : VINCHON Auguste (1789 - 1865)

Creation date : 1848

Date shown: 1839

Dimensions: Height 190 - Width 150

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet / G. Blot website

Picture reference: 84-000512 / MV5695

Louis-Philippe and the royal family, visiting the Historical Galleries of the Versailles museum, stop in front of the statue of Joan of Arc ...

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Blot

Publication date: August 2005

Historical context

Cousin of Louis XVI, son of Philippe Égalité who voted for the death of the king in 1793, Louis-Philippe became king of the French following the insurrectionary days of the Three Glorious Days (July 1830), which forced Charles X to abdicate. The choice to make Versailles, the king's home, a national museum dedicated "to all the glories of France" is eminently political. Marie d'Orléans (1813-1839), third daughter of the ten children of Louis-Philippe, pupil of Ary Scheffer and David d'Angers, talented sculptor, is responsible for making a marble of the “virgin of Orléans” .

Image Analysis

In memory of Marie d´Orléans

It is night, the Orléans family (Louis-Philippe and Marie-Amélie in the center) came to admire the statue of Joan, which the servants light up with the help of reflector lamps held at arm's length above the heads. The sad faces, the orange light of the lamps, the darkness and the nudity of the vaults of the gallery, help to create an atmosphere of meditation and melancholy. The scene takes place one evening in 1839, shortly after the untimely death of Princess Marie, Duchess of Württemberg, of whom this marble is one of the last works. The little shepherdess of Domrémy is only a pretext, it is to their deceased daughter that the sovereigns pay homage. However, a feeling of piety emanates from the statue. Jeanne, shown standing, looking humble, her head bowed, has a face imbued with great serenity and great gentleness. With her hands clasped, she clasps the sword of Saint Catherine of Fierbois, which thus takes on the appearance of a crucifix. This religious posture is underlined by the effects of light which envelop the frail young girl. Marie d´Orléans clearly sensed the ambivalence of Joan, both a warrior (armor, sword) and a virgin invested with a divine mission. She has already represented a saint, nearly a century before her sanctification, and her statue, reproduced in hundreds of copies, will feature Saint Joan of Arc in the majority of churches in France.


The birth of a saint

The Age of Enlightenment saw a revival of interest in the Johannine epic, more or less respectful works (The Maid of Orleans de Voltaire, 1755) drawing on scholarly works: Story of Joan of Arc by Lenglet-Dufresnoy in 1753, discovered in archives by L’Averdy (1787). However, the real resurrection dates from the Romantic era. In 1841, Michelet celebrated a secular and romantic Jeanne, daughter of the people betrayed by the monarchy and the clergy. The works on Joan of Arc are multiplying: Jungfrau von Orleans by Schiller (1800), Jeanne D'Arc by Michelet (1841), Joan of Arc from contemporary chronicles by Quicherat (1841-1849, resumption of trial documents), Giovanna d´Arco by Verdi in 1845; many statues were erected in public places, especially after the defeat of 1870 (in Paris: place des Pyramides by Frémiet in 1874; rue de la Chapelle by Charpentier in 1891; boulevard Saint-Marcel by Chatrousse in 1891; place Saint-Augustin by Dubois in 1900; on Île aux Cygnes by Wederkinch in 1958)

The French Revolution having strengthened the national feeling, the various political movements seize the shepherdess: Bonaparte, savior of the State and instigator of religious peace, is the first to associate with the young girl by making her raise a statue in Orleans (1803-1804); Louis XVIII bought the house of Domrémy (1818). By ordering a statue of Joan for her daughter and a Entry of Joan of Arc in Orleans to Ary Scheffer in 1847 (painting installed in the center of the Galerie des Batailles facing the single window), Louis-Philippe intends to honor the virgin who came from the East to deliver Orleans and have Charles VII consecrated. Everyone seeks to appropriate the character of Joan: Catholics insist on the divine character of her mission; the royalists put forward the protection granted to the Valois; the republicans insist on its popular origin, its liberating role and its abandonment by the king and the Church; after 1870, the nationalists recognized themselves in the action of the virgin who kicked the English out of France. In books dedicated to children, such as Little Lavisse and The Tour de la France by two childrens by G. Bruno, the emphasis is on the patriotism of young Lorraine. At the same time, action was taken in 1860 by Alexandre-Henri Wallon and the Bishop of Orleans, Mgr Dupanloup, to initiate a beatification process which would lead to the canonization of Joan in 1920.

  • Orleans (of)
  • heroic figure
  • Louis Philippe
  • July Monarchy
  • Middle Ages
  • Museum
  • nationalism
  • patrimony
  • sculpture
  • Versailles
  • Museum of the History of France


Béatrice de ANDIA, Art or politics, arches, statues, columns of Paris, Paris, Artistic action of the City of Paris, 2003. Claire CONSTANS, Les Peintures.Musée national du Château de Versailles, Paris, RMN, 1995. Régine PERNOUD, I name Jeanne la Pucelle, Paris, Gallimard, coll. "Découvertes", 1992.Images of Joan of Arc. Tribute for the 550th anniversary of the liberation of Orleans and the coronation, catalog of the exhibition at the Hôtel de la Monnaie, June-September 1979, Paris, Imprimerie nationale , 1979.

To cite this article

Delphine DUBOIS, "The statue of Joan of Arc at Versailles"

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