Joan of Arc (1882) by Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Charles (1828-82)
The English artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti painted this work in the final days of his life. Rossetti captures Joan of Arc, the subject of this visually sumptuous painting, in a moment of introspection. Rossetti had earlier painted several versions of the valiant peasant girl. In his last work the artist depicts the courageous young woman about to kiss the tightly gripped hilt of her sword. Through this action she speaks her vow to God to defeat the English army during the conflicts of the late 1400s. As she lifts her gaze heaven-ward Joan’s fierce determination finds expression in her resolute pose. Rossetti renowned for his series of paintings of famous women, casts Joan as a decidedly Romantic heroine. The warmth of her creamy complexion together with the cascade of Titian-red hair artfully contrasts with the cold reflection from her sword and armour. Rossetti’s sympathetic interpretation of what his inscription calls Jehan la Pucelle (Joan the Maid) emerged against the background of French campaigns to canonise her. Pope Benedict the XV did just that in 1920 following France’s miraculous escape from defeat in World War I. This enigmatic female warrior saint fits perfectly into Rossetti’s obsession with medieval history and romance.
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