Joan of Arc in NYC

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook

According to this editorial from the New York Times on August 26, 2010 edition (at A-26), New York City’s first statue of a woman was raised in 1912:

This is the first statue of a woman — not a female abstraction — erected in New York, and the first by a female sculptor, Anna Vaughn Hyatt. A small booklet called “The Dedication of the Statue of Joan of Arc in the City of New York on the 6th of December, 1915,” (published the following year for the Museum of French Art) tells the full tale.

It says that there is a time capsule of sorts in the statue’s base — coins and documents, mostly — as well as stones from the prison that once held Joan of Arc. The dedication day was partly cloudy, 35 degrees, with a little snow and a stiff northwest wind. The surrounding trees were mere saplings, and the beatified but yet uncanonized saint stood out sharply against the sky.

Many speeches were made, some about faith, some patriotism, but all with the purpose of justifying the presence of this statue in what Cabot Ward, president of the Park Commission, called “the greatest city of the Western world.” Behind nearly every speech was the thought of the European war. The statue was raised — a little late — to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Joan’s birth in January 1412. The 600th anniversary, in a barely more peaceful world, is just around the corner. We wonder what celebrations are in store.

Read the full editorial here.

Here’s how the Riverside Park Fund describes the monument:

Located at 93rd Street and Riverside Drive, the over life-size bronze statue of Joan of Arc features her in armor, holding aloft her sword and standing in the saddle of her warhorse. The sculptor, Anna Vaughn Hyatt, wanted to depict Joan as spiritual rather than warlike. Hyatt was attempting to represent an incident that occurred after Joan found the sacred sword where “She is holding it [the sword] up to her God and praying for guidance.” Architect John Van Pelt designed the granite pedestal upon which the statue rests in the Gothic style. He incorporated stones from Rheims Cathedral and stones from the dungeon at the Tower of Rouen into the blind arches of the pedestal so that it is a literal witness to both Joan’s moments of triumph and disaster.

The statue in Riverside Park was actually modeled after a life-size plaster equestrian statue designed by Hyatt and exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1910. Around the same time, an American committee was planning a monument to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the birth of Joan of Arc. Hyatt’s design caught the eye of Americans who attended the exhibit at the Paris Salon. In 1914, the commission was awarded to Ms. Hyatt. In 1915, in the midst of World War I, French Ambassador Jean Jusserand came to Riverside Park for the dedication of this monument and presented Anna Hyatt with the Légion d’Honneur for creating a monument to France’s national heroine. Hyatt’s was the first New York City park monument dedicated to a nonfictional woman.

(Full description here.)

For more on Anna Vaughn Hyatt, see here.

-Bridget Crawford

This entry was posted in Feminist Legal History, Firsts. Bookmark the permalink.