Riverside Park

The Daily Plant : Tuesday, December 8, 2015

NYC Parks Celebrates Joan Of Arc Statue Centennial—First Ever Statue Of A Woman Erected In An NYC Park

Daniel Avila

Last week, NYC Parks celebrated the centennial of one of the City's crown jewels, an artwork of worldwide significance, as well as a community landmark, its first-ever erected statue of a woman—The Joan of Arc Memorial, in Riverside Park with a birthday gathering in its honor. Joined by the French Consul General Bertrand Lortholary, The Riverside Park Conservancy, Anne Higonnet, Professor of Art History, Barnard College, Neighborhood in the Nineties, members of the Joan of Arc Statue Committee, students from MS 256, friends of the park and community members, attendees were treated to an insider history tour of the monument by Professor Higonnet who is an expert on the statue’s sculptor Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington.

The centennial event celebrated a statue that has captured the hearts of fellow New Yorkers, and symbolizes the bond between France and America. The event’s goal was to revive interest in the historic statue and surrounding landscape—for which the Joan of Arc Statue Committed launched a fund for their care.

About Joan of Arc in Riverside Park

This equestrian sculpture of 15th-century French patriot and martyr Joan of Arc (1411-1431) is one of the finest works of art in the collection of New York City’s parks. Created by artist and patron Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973), the piece was dedicated in 1915.

Jeanne La Pucelle, later known as Joan of Arc, was a peasant said to have been divinely inspired to help liberate the French from English rule. Proving her tenacity, Charles VII Charles appointed her commander in chief of a small provisional army, which prevailed over the English in 1429. With the victory, Charles VII was made king in Rheims Cathedral.

Continuing her fight for France, she was captured in 1430 by the Burgundians and sold to the English, who charged her with witchcraft and heresy. Subjected to a trial she was found guilty and condemned to death. On May 31, 1431 Jeanne was burned at the stake. Twenty years later an investigation into the trial’s proceedings led to the annulment of her sentence. On May 16, 1920, nearly 500 years later, Jeanne La Pucelle was canonized as Saint Joan.

The 500th anniversary of the birth of Joan of Arc was cause for many to revisit the heroic exploits of her life. In New York a group of citizens led by J. Sanford Saltus formed a Joan of Arc monument committee in 1909. Their efforts coincided with those of young sculptor, Anna Hyatt Huntington’s, to create a sculpture of Joan. Her first version she explained, emphasized “the spiritual rather than the warlike point of view,” was submitted to the 1910 Paris Salon. It received an honorable mention from a jury nevertheless skeptical that such an accomplished work of art could have been made solely by a woman.

The New York monument committee was so impressed by her work, that they awarded her the commission. Architect John van Pelt was retained to design the pedestal, which incorporates several limestone blocks from the chateau in Rouen where Joan of Arc had been imprisoned.

On December 6, 1915 the sculpture was unveiled in an elaborate ceremony, which included a military band and French Ambassador Jean J. Jusserand. Mrs. Thomas Alva Edison was among those selected to pull the cord that released the shroud. Replicas of her Joan stand in a town square in Gloucester, as well as in front of the Palace of the Legion of Honor in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

Directions to Riverside Park

Know Before You Go

West 79th Street Boat Basin

The 79th Street Boat Basin marina is currently closed. No vessel dockage, moorage, anchorage or launch services are available. The marina will be dredged and reconstructed to modern codes and standards. The marina is anticipated to reopen in 2025.

Related inquiries may be sent to boatbasin@parks.nyc.gov

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