Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

Joan of Arc (Image #2) High resolution image

  • Title: Joan of Arc
  • Creator: Fauquembergue, Clément de, notary(Image #1)
    Pichore, Jean, illuminator (Image #2)
  • Description:

    The image on the left depicts a marginal sketch of Joan of Arc by Clément de Fauquembergue, notary of the Paris Parlement, in his record book for May 1429. This simple drawing shows a profile of Joan with her hair falling down one shoulder. She is wearing a long-sleeved gown that emphasizes her figure. In one hand she grasps a large sword; in the other a banner with the letters HIS for the name of Jesus. This is the only contemporary representation of Joan, although the notary never saw her. In the text accompanying the drawing, Clément noted news about the siege of Orléans that was circulating in Paris including that "a Maid alone bearing a banner" was in the midst of the Dauphin's forces.

    The depiction of Joan on the right is from a 1504 manuscript, Les vies des femmes célèbres by Antoine Dufour and presents her on horseback before the walls of Orléans. This illumination is remarkably detailed compared to the 1429 sketch, its colors contrasting to the ink drawing. Dressed in full golden armor and her hair concealed by a golden helmet, Joan sits astride a white horse with red decorative caparisons against the ornate buildings of Orléans in the background. Joan carries a banner with the inscription, “In the name of God."

    The manuscript was commissioned by Anne of Brittany, twice queen of France. She asked Dufour, a Dominican at the royal court, to compile this account of famous women whom he presents as models to emulate or avoid. He praises Joan for her celibacy and religious devotion and makes careful note of her rehabilitation including an annual celebration in Orléans, while the illustration by Jean Pichore emphasizes her military persona. Pichore ran a large workshop in Paris that specialized in book illustration for prominent patrons including Louise of Savoy and Cardinal Georges of Amboise as well as Louis XII and Anne of Brittany. Scholars have speculated that Anne may have intervened here to solidify this portrayal of a strong female leader, adding a political emphasis to Joan’s life.

    Joan of Arc, or Jeanne d’Arc, was a fifteenth century French heroine who led French troops to relieve the siege of Orléans by English forces during the Hundred Years’ War. Born in 1412 to a peasant family, Joan grew up in Domrémy, a village in northeastern France. As a teenager, she reported hearing saints’ voices and receiving visions of angels. These she interpreted as signs from God to help Charles, the Dauphin, reclaim France from the English. Joan pledged her virginity to the service of Christ and to the divine task of rescuing France. Over the years, images of Joan of Arc have varied greatly in their portrayals, depending upon the particular viewpoint of the group involved. Representations have ranged from a humble maiden to a saintly savior, from a personification of liberty to a symbol of right-wing nationalism.

    Both images above showcase the fluidity of Joan of Arc’s appearance and her identity in both feminine and typically masculine spaces. In the sketch, she wields a sword, a phallic object, and in the manuscript image, she fully straddles her horse in a typically masculine manner. Her dress in both images connotes flexibility in the representation of her gender. The manuscript portrays Joan androgynously in total body armor with her hair encased in a helmet, whereas the sketch displays her in a gown and with her hair plaited but holding a massive weapon. The manuscript’s portrait of Joan has her brandishing the banner in place of a weapon. Despite the difference in dress and appearance across these images, they both present Joan’s readiness to command in battle. The banners signify her religious connection. Joan’s public appeal won France a tremendous victory in a major turning point of the war.

    The Hundred Years’ War, growing from a dynastic conflict, pitted England against France from 1337 to 1453. It was compounded by the Black Death, the loss of the city of Calais to England, the capture of the Valois king of France Jean II, and the seizure of almost one third of France’s territory by the English. Civil conflict also erupted between the Burgundians and the Armagnacs, the latter loyal to King Charles VI and his brother, despite the king’s increasing insanity. From October 12th, 1428 to May 8th, 1429, the English army besieged the French city of Orléans. After convincing a French captain of her divinely-ordained mission, Joan joined a relief convoy of soldiers bringing supplies to Orléans on March 6th. Once she had entered the city, Joan regularly participated in discussions of tactics, paraded the streets to raise morale, and distributed supplies to the people and the garrison. Joan also sent out messengers to the English demanding that they depart in the name of God, referring to herself as “the Maiden."

    Joan of Arc participated in several assaults, and was wounded twice. Despite being injured, she led troops to retake the fortress of Tournelles, freeing hundreds of French prisoners and pushing back the English forces with immense losses. This led to the lifting of the siege. This was a major victory for the French royal army, and the first victory during Joan of Arc’s service. After the siege of Orléans, the Maid of Orléans led droves of volunteers to join the French army, serving under her banner.

    Joan of Arc, unfortunately, did not live long past this victory. At the age of 19 in 1431, a prisoner of war, she was tried by her English enemies. She was first accused of heresy and witchcraft and acquitted with a warning. However, she ultimately was convicted and burned as a relapsed heretic for wearing men’s clothing. However, a 1456 court authorized by Pope Callixtus III re-examined the charges against Joan, pronouncing her innocent and declaring her a martyr. By 1504, Joan of Arc had been rehabilitated and her status elevated to that of a Christian hero rather than a heretic. Her popularity increased over time. Joan became a symbol of the Catholic League in the 16th century, and Napoleon Bonaparte declared her a symbol of France in 1803. The Roman Catholic Church beatified Joan in 1909 before canonizing her in 1920. Groups ranging from the far-right Action Française movement to suffragettes took up Joan of Arc as their hero. In recent years Joan kissed Marianne, the personification of the French republic, on a marriage rights poster. In 2018 Mathilde Edey Gamassou, whose mother is from Poland and father is from Benin, re-enacted Joan’s ride in the annual festivities in Orleans. Despite racist and bigoted reactions in newspapers and social media, Mathilde made Joan of Arc especially meaningful to the crowds who cheered for her.

  • Source: Wikimedia Commons (Images #1 and #2)
  • Rights: Public domain (Images #1 and #2)
  • Subject (See Also): Anne of Brittany, Queen-Consort of Charles VIII and Louis XII of France Gender Hundred Years' War Joan of Arc, Saint Politics Queens Warfare and Warriors
  • Geographic Area: France
  • Century: 15 (Image #1); 16 (Image #2)
  • Date: May 1429 (Image #1); 1504-1506 (Image #2)
  • Related Work: Full-page view of Clément de Fauquembergue’s journal page with the sketch of Joan of Arc, 1429, Paris, Archives Nationales.
    Four pages from Les vies des femmes célèbres, Antoine Dufour, 15040-06, Nantes, Musée Dobrée, Ms 17. Illustrations include a presentation scene in which Anne of Brittany receives the manuscript from the author.
    Judith with the head of Holofernes and Joan of Arc, Martin Le Franc, Le Champion des dames, 1440, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, ms. Français 12476, fol. 101v.
    Joan of Arc: Political Figure, 19th and 20th century posters selected by the Société d'Histoire de Chinon Vienne & Loire.
  • Current Location: Paris, Archives Nationales, Registre du Conseil du Parlement de Paris, AE/II/447, (X1a 1481 fol. 12r.) (Image #1)
    Nantes, Musée Dobrée, Ms 17, fol. 76v (Image #2)
  • Original Location: Paris (Image #1 and #2)
  • Artistic Type (Category): Digital Images; Manuscript Drawings (Image #1)
    Digital Images; Manuscript Illuminations (Image #2)
  • Artistic Type (Material/Technique): Parchment; Ink (Image #1)
    Vellum (parchment); Paint; Gold; Colored Ink (Image #2)
  • Donor: Laywoman; Anne of Brittany, Queen-Consort of Charles VIII and Louis XII of France, commissioned the Dominican friar, Antoine Dufour, to write Les vies des femmes célèbres in 1504. In 1506 Jean Pichore completed the seventy-three miniatures in the manuscript. (Image #2)
  • Height/Width/Length(cm): 36/30/34/21.5(Image #2)
  • Inscription:
  • Related Resources:

    Brown, Cynthia J. The Queen's Library: Image-Making at the Court of Anne of Brittany, 1477-1514. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.

    Cassagnes-Brouquet, Sophie. Un manuscrit d'Anne de Bretagne: les "Vies des femmes célèbres" d'Antoine Dufour. Ouest-France, 2007.

    Dufour, Antoine. Les vies des femmes célèbres. Edited by Gustave Jeanneau. Droz, 1970.

    Heimann, Nora M. "Joan of Arc: From Medieval Maiden to Modern Saint." Joan of Arc: Her Image in France and America. Edited by Nora M. Heimann and Laura Coyle. Corcoran Gallery of Art, 2006. Pages 15-51.

    Renck, Anneliese Pollock. "Les Vies des Femmes Célèbres: Antoine Dufour, Jean Pichore, and a Manuscript's Debt to an Italian Printed Book." Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History 18 (2015): 158-180.

    Swift, Helen. "'Pourquoy appellerions nous ces choses differentes, qu'une heure, un moment, un mouvement peuvent rendre du tout semblables?' Representing Gender Identity in the Late Medieval French Querelle des femmes." Representing Medieval Genders and Sexualities in Europe: Construction, Transformation, and Subversion, 600-1530. Edited by Elizabeth L'Estrange and Alison More. Ashgate, 2011. Pages 89-106.

    Szkilnik, Michelle. " Mentoring Noble Ladies: Antoine Dufour’s Vies des femmes célèbres." The Cultural and Political Legacy of Anne de Bretagne: Negotiating Convention in Books and Documents. Edited by Cynthia Jane Brown. D. S. Brewer, 2010. Pages 65-80.

    Taylor, Craig. Joan of Arc: la Pucelle. Manchester Medieval Sources Series. Manchester University Press, 2006.

    Taylor, Larissa. The Virgin Warrior: The Life and Death of Joan of Arc. Yale University Press, 2009.