Joan of Arc Statue is a gilded bronze equestrian sculpture of Joan of Arc by Emmanuel Frémiet. Bought by the Fairmount Park Art Association in 1890, the monument was at first placed at the east end of the Girard Avenue Bridge. Unappreciated at that location, it was moved to its present one in 1959, after being given its gilt coat in the basement of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The sculpture represents Joan of Arc, a heroine of France and a Roman Catholic saint, 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 was a peasant girl living in medieval France. She believed she could save her country, France, from the English
conquerors during the Hundred Years' War. With no military training and acting
under divine guidance, Joan secured the confidence of Dauphin (later King
Charles VII) and led the French army in a momentous victory at Orleans in 1429.
After seeing the prince crowned (King Charles VII), she was captured by the
English and their French collaborators, tried for witchcraft and
heresy, and burned at the stake in 1431, at the age of 19. The Maid of Orléans (as she was known) had long
been considered national heroine and an enduring symbol of French unity and
nationalism. On May 16th, 1920 she was canonized by Pope Benedict XV.
The original statue of Joan of Arc for Paris was
commissioned in 1874 by Napoleon III, intended to help
in re-establishing French confidence after the humiliating military defeat of 1870 by
the Prussian army. Emmanuel Frémiet, French sculptor, had earned a reputation
for his work incorporating human and animal motifs in the neo-realistic manner.
To develop the memorial to the French heroine, Frémiet studied the design of
fifteenth-century French armor and dress in order to convey the figure within
her historical context. The statue was installed at the place where Joan was
wounded, Place des Pyramides in Paris.
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 Bridge on the Schuykill
River. The original dedication took place on November 15, 1890. In 1959 the
sculpture was gilded and moved to its present location near the Philadelphia
Museum of Art by the Fairmount Park Art Association. In 2009, it was removed to repair a crack and
re-gilded and returned to its current spot in 2010.