“Head of Sorrow” (Joan of Arc)
Photo: Joseph G. Brin © 2012
Curator Thompson says that in the 20th century Rodin’s influence was directly transmitted through sculptors like Maillol and Brancusi (who worked for Rodin). “When you get to the 21st century, I’m struck by how many younger people are taken by Rodin, moved by him. It’s so much about emotion. You don’t need to know the classics. Rodin’s work is a great source of human connection.”
Joseph G. Brin is an architect, fine artist and writer based in Philadelphia.
Mark Twain’s obsession with Joan of Arc has to rank among the most baffling and least talked about enigmas in American literature. Even for those entrenched within the competitive world of Twain scholarship, stories like the one above are usually treated as interesting, but ultimately trifling, anecdotes, illustrative of the eccentricities of a predictably unconventional man.
The same might also be said of his book about the French heroine. Published in 1896, when its author was 61,Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc has long been viewed as something of an aberration, a curio—the type of genre-bending work that a bored, established writer often undertakes in order to buck audience expectations. Narrated by a fictionalized version of Joan’s servant and scribe, Sieur Louis de Conte, the book spans the majority of Joan’s life, beginning with her childhood in eastern France and ending with her questionable trial and execution. While other Twain novels such as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The Prince and the Pauper are also set in medieval Europe, far from the author’s more familiar milieu of mid-19th century Missouri, Recollections is unique in its somber tone.
This film “Ma Jeanne d’Arc” tells the story of a young woman who follows Joan of Arc’s footsteps across France, on horseback.
The trailer is beautiful, and I look forward to seeing it! Showing in “Art Theaters” now, and will be available on DVD soon.
“It’s the preface, which is probably 40 pages long, where he breaks down everything about Joan of Arc, comparing her to Socrates, to Napoleon. The particular kind of genius and vision she had, and the ability to make effective that vision, which is the definition of genius.”
He opens a folder full of script pages and extracts a copy.
“Oh he’s wonderful, Shaw. God, he’s hysterical.” (Donald Sutherland)
When considering women in history, there is evidence that women have demonstrated particular masculine traits to assume leadership. A few examples include Joan of Arc, Empress Theodora, Anne Hutchinson, Catherine the Great, and Carrie Nation. However, these women have left a mark in history because they and many others have typically assumed male roles. When Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s first female prime minister, she quickly became the ultimate feminist icon who had smashed through the highest glass ceiling.
Charles, a weak-willed, mistrustful, uncertain personality, had been discouraged from granting Joan an audience by his advisors. Perhaps due to their influence, he attempted to test her perceptive powers by choosing an imposter to sit on his throne. Entering the torch-lit “great hall” crowded with knights, noblemen, members of the clergy and ladies of the court, Joan, a country girl of seventeen was expected to lose her composure.
To the amazement of all who witnessed this event, she calmly searched for Charles who stood amidst the onlookers. Moving toward him, she knelt at his feet before addressing him. At first he denied being the dauphin, and pointed toward the man seated on the throne. Joan said to him,
By God gentle prince, it is you and none other. God give you life, gentle king. I bring you news from God, that our Lord will give you back your kingdom, bringing you to be crowned at Reims, and driving out your enemies. In this I am God’s messenger. Do you set me bravely to work, and I will raise the siege of Orleans. (Jeanne d’Arc)
Prior to her arrival, Robert de Boudricourt had sent a letter to Charles from Vaucouleurs that served as an endorsement of Joan. Her ability to recognize him as the dauphin provided Charles with yet another reason to grant her the benefit a private audience. As the crowd watched, they withdrew together, into a private chamber.
What took place during their time alone on this night of their first meeting would never become clearly known, but has been the source of great speculation and conjecture by historians who continue to develop and present their own theories. What is certain, according to witnesses, is that Charles appeared to be radiant when he emerged from that room. His demeanor had dramatically changed from doubt, to glowing certainty.
[i] Ibid. p.21