Jeanne D'Arc

Jeanne D'Arc

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  • Joan of Arc in her prison

    DELAROCHE Paul (1797 - 1856)

  • Jeanne D'Arc

    BERNARD Emile (1868 - 1941)

  • Joan of Arc at the coronation of King Charles VII in the cathedral of Reims

    INGRES Jean-Auguste Dominique (1780 - 1867)

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Title: Joan of Arc in her prison

Author : DELAROCHE Paul (1797 - 1856)

Creation date : 1825 -

Dimensions: Height 48.1 cm - Width 37.8 cm

Storage place: Wallace Collection website

Contact copyright: The Wallace Collection, London, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / The Trustees of the Wallace CollectionLink to image

Picture reference: 10-510219 / P300

Joan of Arc in her prison

© The Wallace Collection, London, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / The Trustees of the Wallace Collection

© RMN-Grand Palais / Martine Beck-Coppola

Joan of Arc at the coronation of King Charles VII in the cathedral of Reims

© RMN-Grand Palais (Louvre museum) / Franck Raux

Publication date: December 2019

Historical context

The Risen Maid

A century separates the painting of Paul Delaroche (1797-1856) from that of Émile Bernard (1868-1941): that of the birth of a real national myth, the polysemy of which provokes a bitter political debate espousing the great fractures of the history of France. When she is not ignored, the "Maid of Orleans" is mocked, especially by Voltaire. It owes its rehabilitation only to the taste of the XIXe century for the Middle Ages. Delaroche takes advantage of this context to create the sensation at the Salon of 1824 with his Joan of Arc in prison, commissioned by a Briton living in Paris; the painter then became famous for his historically documented and dramatized canvases.

The Second Empire did not neglect the popular figure of Joan either: the State commissioned Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) for a canvas exhibited at the Universal Exhibition of 1855. Under the IIIe Republic, memories of right and left compete with each other. De Mille in 1909, and especially Dreyer in 1928 and Marco de Gastyne in 1929), Bernard, former founder of the Pont-Aven school, decided in his turn to devote a canvas to the national myth, on the occasion of the five- hundredth anniversary of the liberation of Orleans (1929) and of his martyrdom (1931).

Image Analysis

Jeanne, first national heroine

The history of young Lorraine is a digest of those episodes which formed the structure of history in the 19th century.e century. Three paintings made in 1825, 1855 and 1930 show Joan of Arc's gesture: her trial (and torture in prison) in Rouen in 1431, the coronation of Charles VII in Reims on July 17, 1429, and military campaigns of 1429, in particular the liberation of Orleans.

The three characters painted by Delaroche are a clerk, a prelate who questions the accused (the Cardinal of Winchester), and the former fallen warlord, in a position of weakness. Three powers therefore clash here: that of History, which makes it possible to judge the past; that of the Church, of its struggle against heretics and of its compromise with the enemy of the crown of France; that of Popular Faith. The dark tones of the genre scene do not seek chiaroscuro, but the contrast between the imposing purple of the cleric and the innocent pallor of the chained maiden, the deformed face of anger inspired by research on emotion, and the candor of a face which is nothing but a suffering forehead and imploring eyes, the clenched hand of the violent Englishman and the clasped hands of the victim of political games. Halfway between these two characters, slightly behind and in the shade, the clerk looks at the viewer while recording what he hears in his annals: it is perhaps a figure of the painter.

Taking up the composition of a drawing made in 1846, Ingres associates in his large-format painting (2.34 x 1.63 m) the heritage of his master Jacques-Louis David, the painter of history from the turn of the century, and the troubadour style which since the 1830s idealized the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In this tradition, three prayers form the assembly, and a page to whom Ingres has given his features attends the scene. In bright and contrasting colors, the painter gives the central place to the Maid and her relationship to God: if the king is absent from the frame despite the title of the work, one recognizes Jean Pasquerel, Joan's chaplain, kneeling. A pillar of the resurgent French monarchy, the young woman in armor rests her left hand on the richly illuminated altar of the cathedral. Like an all-in-one statue, it only lets you guess its thoughts through the profusion of objects that surround it, painted with a realism bordering on trompe l'oeil. The light, which should logically emanate from the candle and create a chiaroscuro in the fashion of the XVIe century, comes from the heavens and overexposes the one chosen to bear the standard. Although her costume is teeming with details like so many real effects, Joan appears less as a warrior than as a woman (wearing a skirt), an emblem of loyalty to the king and a saint.

In 1930, Joan did not lose any of her topicality: she was beatified in 1909 and then canonized in 1920. Since her break with Gauguin, Émile Bernard has drawn more and more inspiration from the masters of the Renaissance in her return to a certain classicism; in the 1920s, he multiplied both portraits and ambitious cycles. He chooses to tighten the focus on the character of Joan, in a painting dominated by shades of gray and ocher barely heightened with French blue which points right in the middle of the painting between two pieces of armor. The androgynous-type heroine, hair loose in the wind, half in a woman's dress and in male combat gear, seems to hold onto the pole of her standard above the soldiers with indistinct faces under the helmets. Vertical and straight, calm and almost smiling, it contrasts with the tide of screaming men who seem to collapse to the right of the painting.


The myth of the savior

The XIXe century in a way invented Joan of Arc, giving her roots that are both popular and republican, religious and patriotic. Jules Michelet and Jules Quicherat, two historians of rather Republican sensitivity, helped to place Jeanne at the heart of national history - the first with a very literary account (1841), the second by editing the main primary sources on the subject (1841-1849). They make her a hero of the people, "saint of the fatherland", martyr of the nation, rather than a royalist warrior inspired by inexplicable voices. If Delaroche anticipated in 1825 this consensual image, which contributes to the success of the character's pharaminous character, Ingres opts for the sanctification of a young girl inspired by God. Busy completing a Virgin officially ordered by the same contract as Jeanne, he left the entire periphery of the composition in his studio, including his portrait. But Ingres reserved for himself the part where Joan stands, more hieratic than many of the painter's characters, and the altar loaded with symbols that give the painting its mystical-patriotic tone. For him, in 1852, there was something about Joan as Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte who saved France from republican chaos by his coup d'etat of December 2, 1851.

In the second part of the XIXe century, scientific and popular publications flourish, no history textbook ignores the epic of the Maid, Domrémy becomes a place of assiduous Catholic pilgrimage. This is undoubtedly what prompts the Bishop of Orleans, Monsignor Dupanloup, to demand in an 1869 eulogy for the canonization of a young woman… yet convicted of heresy by an ecclesiastical court. This initiative, part of a strategy to re-Christianize France, is debated within the Church as well as among the anticlericals. Nevertheless: the identification with Joan slips more and more towards nationalism and Catholic conservatism. The defeat of 1870 brought about the transformation of young Lorraine, an emblem of the resistant nation (alongside Vercingétorix), a status further amplified by the war of 14-18 which was taking place in the eastern confines of the country. Upon her beatification in 1909, Jeanne was adopted as Patron Saint by the Camelots du Roi. The Republic, which finally holds its Revenge, tries to recover the symbol by opposing the canonization of 1920 with a celebration of patriotism which had been imagined by the radical Joseph Fabre ... in 1884. But the symbol no longer seduces the left at all. Émile Bernard experienced at the end of his life a phase of Catholic mysticism which perhaps explains the return to a theme already addressed in 1912, on the occasion of the five-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Joan. The two scenes differ markedly: the precisely drawn romantic portrait of her then muse was succeeded by a fierce warrior in the melee, perhaps a reminder of the battlefields of 14-18. If the prayer book has disappeared, divine light still floods Jeanne's face, which floats like an apparition. She is more than ever the guide of the people in the misfortunes of war.

  • Jeanne D'Arc
  • Hundred Years War
  • Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet, said)
  • Middle Ages
  • Michelet (Jules)
  • Le Brun de Charmelles (Philippe-Alexandre)
  • Art fair
  • Second Empire
  • Universal Exhibition of 1855
  • Third Republic
  • Charles VII
  • Church
  • Alsace Lorraine
  • Rouen
  • Reims
  • Orleans
  • Britain
  • troubadour genre
  • Pasquerel (Jean)
  • cathedral
  • martyr
  • anticlericalism
  • Vercingetorix


Philippe Contamine, Olivier Bouzy, Xavier Helary, Jeanne D'Arc. History and dictionary, Paris, Robert Laffont, 2012.

Dorothée Hansen, Fred Leeman, Rodolphe Rapetti, Valérie Sueur-Hermel and Marie-Paule Vial, Émile Bernard 1868-1941 (Exhibition catalog, Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, September 16, 2014 - January 5, 2015), Paris, Flammarion, 2014.

Gerd Krumeich, Joan of Arc through history, Paris, Belin, 2017.

Dimitri Vezyroglou, “National memory and French cinema in 1928: The Wonderful Life of Joan of Arc, by Marco de Gastyne ”, in Christian Delporte and Annie Duprat (eds.), The event: images, representations, memory, Grânes, Créaphis, 2003.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "Joan of Arc"

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