Joan of Arc

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This small-scale bronze by Princess Marie d'Orléans depicts Joan of Arc, heroine of the resistance to the English occupation of France during the Hundred Years War. She is shown with a short pageboy haircut and full plate armor, gripping her sword tightly to her breast. Her expression is deeply introspective and melancholic, as if she senses her impending doom—Joan of Arc was captured by English forces in 1430 and burned at the stake the following year. Eventually, she was made one of France’s patron saints.

Marie Christine Caroline Adélaïde Françoise Léopoldine d’Orléans was the third daughter of Louis Philippe I, King of France from 1830 to 1848. The princess’s artistic talents were recognized at an early age and encouraged. She became the student of the painter Ary Scheffer at only nine years of age. Her family, descended from the House of Bourbon, was known to be relatively liberal, a fact that must have made it possible for her to seriously pursue art. Eventually, on Scheffer’s advice, she shifted her focus to sculpture.

Marie was interested in French Medieval history and read a popular account of Joan of Arc’s trial written by the liberal scholar Alexandre Buchon. The story inspired her first sculpture of the saint, a small equestrian study. The commission from which the Clark’s sculpture is derived was prompted by Marie’s father, who wanted a life-size sculpture of Joan of Arc for the palace at Versailles. Initially awarded to James Pradier, the commission went to Marie after he abandoned the project. Her small-scale terracotta was exhibited to favorable reviews at the Salon of 1837, the year she married the German Duke Alexander of Württemberg. A full-scale marble was made for Versailles with the assistance of professional carvers. By the time she created the marble, Marie was suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis and would die just a year later, in 1839. Her late work is marked by a melancholic mood that may derive from her illness. Her sculpture of Joan of Arc proved extremely popular, and bronzes were cast after her death by the prominent foundry Susse Frères.

Princess Marie-Christine d' Orleans

French, 1813–1839

Joan of Arc

Modeled in marble 1837, cast mid-1840s


Height: 20 in. (50.8 cm)

Gift of Charles Janoray, 2007