Bits of Medieval France in the Joan of Arc statue

Jeanne d'ArcThe heroic, life-size bronze of Joan of Arc at 93rd Street and Riverside Park was created a century ago by a group of prominent city residents who wanted to commemorate the Maid of Orleans’ 500th birthday.

And incredibly, it was the first statue in the city that honored a real, nonfictional woman (as opposed to the Statue of Liberty or Mother Goose).


But this monument to a Medieval martyr is distinguished and remarkable in other ways as well.

JoanofarcparksdeptSculptor Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington sought to show not a warrior but a spiritual girl whose mission to defeat the British was inspired by the voices of saints.

“Well, the whole idea was that I remember reading before she went into battle she had acquired a new sword,” Huntington later explained.

“And when she went into battle, she unconsciously raised it to heaven to ask the blessing of the Lord on it before she went into battle.”

To invoke Medieval France, architect John Van Pelt made a granite base that contains actual stones from the cathedral in Rheims, where King Charles (who supported Joan’s fight before abandoning her) was crowned.

JoanofarcinscriptionHe also incorporated real limestone blocks from the Tower of Rouen, where Joan was imprisoned and tried for heresy and witchcraft before being burned at the stake.

“On December 6, 1915, the sculpture was unveiled in an elaborate ceremony, which included a military band and French Ambassador Jean J. Jusserand,” states

JoanofarcdedicationThat Jusserand (left, at the ceremony, with Mrs. Edison) made it to the ceremony is impressive, considering that France was embroiled in the Great War at the time.

In front of a crowd of about 1,000, Thomas Edison’s wife unveiled the statue—a symbol of solidarity among America and France and one of the finest city sculptures.

Joan of Arc’s name lends itself to numerous city buildings—like these “French Flats” on 14th Street and this women’s hotel in Chelsea, formerly known as a home for “friendless French girls.”

[Second photo:]

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9 Responses to “Bits of Medieval France in the Joan of Arc statue”

  1. ianschoenherr Says:

    (Thomas Edison died in 1931.)

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Whoops, fixed!

  3. Penelope Bianchi Says:

    Imagine the thought and effort to collect all those things from disparate sources to make such a meaningful statue and honor for Joan of Arc!!??
    Think of it! This total heroine convicted of witchcraft and burned at the stake. Really scary. We think things are bad now.

    What is the animal (??) on the ledge by Mr. Jusserand. Wasn’t he France’s Ambassador stationed in New York??

    anyway; it looks like an owl? But it can’t be??!!???

    Great post…. I will visit it the next time I am in NYC!!!!

  4. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    You know, I could not figure out what that was in the photo. I replaced it with a better one of Jusserand and Mrs. Edison sitting during the dedication ceremony and looking very important.

    And you are probably right, if Jusserand was the ambassador, he wasn’t coming from France. Thanks for pointing that out!

    • Penelope Bianchi Says:

      AHA!!!!! Maybe it was Mrs. Edison’s muff!!!! (that fur thing her hands are in! How hilarious!!! What was it doing there? Too funny!
      That is fascinating information about that statue! Seriously; people went to such extents to make things authentic and meaningful!

      Think of this! It was dedicated 100years ago this year!!

      Amazing!!!! 600 years after she was burned at the stake???

      Sheesh! Our daughter lives right next to Salem Massachusetts…..they did the same thing….years later. EEEK!

  5. Penelope Bianchi Says:

    I mean now it is 600 years later! Yikes!

  6. artandarchitecturemainly Says:

    Why would a deeply Catholic teenage girl from a rural French village, in constant contact with the Lord, be of interest to Americans in 1915?

    Surely not to show solidarity between America and France. The USA was neutral in the very war that was devastating France in 1915.

    And surely not as part of a god-directed mission to defeat the British.

  7. MaryDowns Says:

    For me, it is a coincidence that you would spotlight this statue now because I only happened upon it for the first time about a month ago.

    What surprises me most about this intricate work is that it is so high up on its pedestal and so cramped amidst the trees that it’s very hard to get a good look at her! Both Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington and Joan deserve a less hidden and awkward location.

    Thank you for sharing the backstory about this work and for all of your blog posts. I very much enjoy your site.

  8. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thank you! She is high up, I agree. Perhaps she is closer to God that way.

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