Napoleon III commissioned this statue of Joan of Arc to help re-establish French confidence following defeats by the Prussian army in 1870. During the medieval clash for control of France known as the Hundred Years’ War, Joan of Arc was a hero to the forces of Charles VII of Valois. Inspired by saints, she rose from humble circumstances to lead an army against the other claimant to the French throne, Henry VI of England. Joan of Arc was martyred in 1431, but her victory at Orléans in 1429 had already turned the tide of the war in favor of the Valois dynasty.
This monument is an example of how public art can be successfully relocated and renovated. Emmanuel Fremmier created the statue in 1874, and in 1890 the Fairmount Park Art Association bought it ungilded. It was first placed at the east end of the Girard Avenue Bridge, but this location was not a success. In 1959, the statue was gilded and moved to its current location, across from the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Kelly Drive, where it has been an inspiration. It was removed to repair a crack in 2009, re-gilded, and returned in 2010.
This statue is the original. Copies of a subsequent version, also gilded, exist in New Orleans, LA; Portland, OR; and on the Place des Pyramides in central Paris outside the Louvre. Additional ungilded copies of the subsequent version exist in Nancy, France, and Melbourne, Australia. In the subsequent version, Fremmier increased Joan of Arc’s size in comparison to the horse she rides.