Joan of Arc being interrogated by the Cardinal of Winchester
(Paul Delaroche)


Joan of Arc, the young fifteenth-century peasant girl who led the French army to victory against the English, became, in the nineteenth century, a symbol of the triumph of the French crown. In 1920 she was canonized as a saint. The same elements of her story (religious fervor and monarchism) which caused Joan to be reviled during the Revolutionary period, catapulted her to heroic status during the Restoration. Schiller contributed greatly to the rise of Joan as a romantic heroine (as he had done with Mary Stuart) with his play Die Jungfrau von Orléans (1801). After 1815 several new publications and plays appeared on Joan of Arc. She was the subject of seventeen Salon compositions during the Restoration. [3]

After attending the coronation of Charles VII, which her bravery had helped to bring about, Joan was captured and sold to the English in 1430. She was tried in Rouen for sorcery and idolatry and burned at the stake. Delaroche’s picture is set in a Rouen prison where Henry Beaufort, Cardinal of Winchester is trying to coerce her confession. No source has been found to confirm that such a private meeting between Cardinal Beaufort and Joan ever took place, but Delaroche clearly contrived this encounter to highlight the anti-English aspect of the story. [4]

This painting exemplifies the stylistic changes that Delaroche and others brought about in the painting of history subjects from the middle of the 1820s. By contrast with the earlier “troubadour” style, with its abundance of detail and almost miniaturist technique (see Révoil, Vermay, and Menjaud), Delaroche has limited his reconstruction of the scene to a few telling details. There is still a high degree of realism, but the dramatic impact is achieved primarily through lighting, gesture, and physiognomy. The idealization characteristic of “troubadour” painting has also been consciously tempered, a fact that was noted by a contemporary critic. [5] The fierce profile and angularity of the figure of the Cardinal creates a dramatic contrast with the shrinking but stalwart Joan who lies sick on a bed of straw. The Cardinal’s index finger resting on his knee has been interpreted as pointing to hell, while Joan’s manacled hands are in a gesture of prayer. The historic import of the scene is stressed through the inclusion of the scribe in the background. Delaroche’s imprisoned Joan had many secular counterparts in Romantic painting, but she also recalls the Baroque tradition of depicting female saints.

The original, [6] very large (108 x 84 1/2 inches) canvas was exhibited at the 1824 Salon where it attracted a great deal of notice. Thiers wrote that Delaroche `was faithful in costume, in national character; he was above all true, energetic, even in expression. This is, without contradiction, one of the history paintings which possesses the most of the character of the times and places they represent.’ [7] Delaroche, like many nineteenth-century painters, painted reduced versions of his most successful compositions. The Wallace Collection in London owns a version of the Joan of Arc almost identical in size to the present picture. The Salon painting was also engraved (by S. W. Reynolds) and reproduced in lithograph by Delaroche for L’Artiste et le Philosophe.

[1]Quoted in Norman D. Ziff, Paul Delaroche. A Study in Nineteenth-Century French History Painting, N.Y. and London, 1977, p. 10.

[2]This term, which had its origins as a description of Louis-Philippe’s politics, was first applied to painting by the critic Louis Peisse in 1831 (See Ziff, op. cit., p. 116).

[3]See Norman D. Ziff, “Jeanne d’Arc and French Restoration Art,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Jan. 1979, p. 37ff..

[4]Norman D.Ziff, Paul Delaroche. A Study in Nineteenth-Century French History Painting, New York and London, 1977, p. 39.

[5]Adolphe Thiers, Salon de mil huit cent vingt-quatre, Paris, n.d., p. 22, quoted Ziff, 1977, p. 41.

[6]Now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen.

[7]Ziff, Ibid.

17 1/2 by 14 3/8 inches (44.5 by 36.5 cm.)
Oil on canvas

Related Works: Jeanne d’Arc Malade est Interogée dans sa Prison par le Cardinal de Winchester, oil on canvas, 277 x 217.5 cm., Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts (1824 Salon); Sketch: Jeanne d’Arc en prison, oil on canvas, 22 x 19 cm., Wallace Collection, London, no. P.604.

Reduction: Jeanne d’Arc en prison, oil on canvas, 46 x 38 cm., Wallace Collection, London, no. P.300.


Matthiesen Gallery & Stair Sainty Matthiesen, ‘Romance & chivalry’, 1996-7

Where is It?
Stair Sainty Matthiesen
Historical Period
Romanticism - 1810-1870
Historical events
1996-Romance and Chivalry: History and Literature reflected in Early Nineteenth Century French Painting.
Hardback book. 300 pages, fully illustrated with 90 colour plates and 100 black and white illustrations. Introduction (40 pages) by Guy Stair Sainty, twelve essays, catalogue, appendix of salons 1801-24 and bibliography. £50 or $80 inc. p.& p.

(Click on image above)
Price band
$50,000 - $100,000