Sunday, May 18, 2008
Joan of Arc Equestrian Statue
Photo courtesy of www.aviewoncities.com
Place des Pyramides is a small square inset from the Rue de Rivoli (right bank) opposite the Tuileries gardens and the north wing of the Louvre. Three sides of the square are enclosed by buildings with elegant colonnades, chief among them the wonderfully old school Hôtel Regina. The square is at the southern end of the Rue de Pyramides, whose name commemorates the 1798 victory by Napoleon in the Battle of the Pyramids in Egypt.
At the center of this rectangle sits the gilded equestrian statue of Joan of Arc carrying her standard into battle. Sculpted by Emmanuel Frémiet (1824-1910) and installed here in 1874, the original was replaced by the artist's more refined version in 1889, in which he significantly reducing the size of the horse. This statue of Joan of Arc was intended to help re-establish French confidence after the humiliating military defeat by the Prussian army in 1870.
Joan of Arc was not canonized until 1920, but France honors her with a national holiday – the second Sunday in May, the day we honor our mothers on this side of the Atlantic.
Frémiet cast identical monuments for both Philadelphia and Paris. In the U.S., the statue, placed adjacent to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is irreverently known as “Joanie on a Pony.” Most school children know that in 1431, 19-year-old Joan was burned at the stake in Rouen after being convicted of treason by a tribunal of French clerics loyal to the English. Sculptor Fremiet chose a 15-year-old model, Valerie Laneau, for his sculpture; when Laneau was 77, she too was burned to death while trying to light her evening lamp – a tragic coincidence.
An aside: The Hôtel Regina was featured prominently in Brian de Palma’s 1976 film Obsession, starring Geneviève Bujold and Cliff Robertson. Even the score was French – nearly the entire soundtrack was taken from Fauré’s Requiem.