French Girl with Joan of Arc

Anonymous French quarter plate daguerreotype circa 1850, showing a girl with small flower and a statuette of Joan of Arc. Resealed in period passe-partout mount, overall dimensions of mount 6 x 5 inches (15x13 cm).   Price: $2,600.   ( Inventory# id274 )

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The carefully-arranged composition of this daguerreotype conveys a personal relation between the young sitter, symbolically holding a single flower on her lap, and the historical figure represented by Joan of Arc's pensive statuette. The "Maid of Orleans," who obeyed what she believed divine instructions in taking up the sword to free France from English rule, bears a central role in French nationhood comparable to that expressed by the portrait of George Washington, gazed upon by a young lady in the famous American daguerreotype of Southworth and Hawes (now in MMA, New York). Yet despite Joan of Arc's importance, I don't believe I have before seen her represented in a daguerreotype in anything like this fashion. Jean's story, being the story of of young and religious lady who did great things, might well bear a special emotional appeal for sitters such as the young lady of this image.

The statuette shown appears to be a period copy after the famous marble group by Princess Marie d'Orleans, sculpted in 1837 and now housed at Versailles.

The daguerreotype has reduced contrast, probably due to an old cleaning, and areas of light brushing and abrasion. It is nevertheless crisp in its details, emotionally evocative, and of true historic importance.

 

Last updated May 8, 2017

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