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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Anna Hyatt Huntington and Her Joan of Arc

Model, 1910
In 1910, established sculptor Anna Vaughn Hyatt (who would later marry Archer Milton Huntington) sculpted a model of an equestrian Joan of Arc and exhibited it at the Paris Salon.  She won a medal for the model and at that time she had no idea of the success and recognition that Joan of Arc would bring her.

Living in small apartments in New York City and sometimes abroad, sharing rent and studio space with fellow artists and sometimes relatives, Huntington was recognized by the art world as a sculptor of naturalistic animal sculptures.  Many of these small sculptures can be found in museum collections around the world, including here at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

While in France, Huntington spent time studying the statues of Joan of Arc erected by the French.  According to Cerinda Evans, Huntington was haunted by the martyrdom of the young Joan and wanted to “immortalize her consecration.” “Accordingly she spent several years near the scenes of the event, gathering an insight in the maid’s decision, which resulted in the famous statue.”

Author Myrna G. Eden writes: “As subject matter for a young woman sculptor imbued with a spirit of independence and a deep creative instinct, Joan had a special appeal to Anna Hyatt. Joan’s spiritual ardor and inner confidence captivated the young Anna...”

Huntington slowly developed the 1910 plaster model.

In an oral history with the Archives of American Art, Huntington states of her version of Joan: “Well, the whole idea was that I remember reading before she went into battle she had acquired a new sword, that is, a sword that she had found somewhere. And when she went into battle, she unconsciously raised it to heaven to ask the blessing of the Lord on it before she went into battle. That was the idea of the statue, that she was asking the Lord to praise the sword, the (sic) bless the sword.”

Riverside Drive, New York City
Because of notice the model received at the Salon, another kind of success found Huntington: she was commissioned to complete a monumental version of her Joan of Arc statue for Riverside Drive in New York City based on the model.Present at the dedication in 1915 was the French Ambassador to the United States.  As the Christian Science Monitor notes of the Dec. 10th event: “When as a climax he drew forth and presented to Miss Hyatt the decoration with which the French government has honored the American woman who made this, the world’s fifteenth, heroic figure of the Maid of Orleans (and the first by one of her sex), cannon booms, the band of the Garde Lafayette struck up the “Marseillaise,” and cheers unrestrained arose from the polite New York crowd assembled on the noble site overlooking the historic Hudson.”

The article continues: “Every one present must have felt, with a thrill of admiration, that Miss Hyatt, as sculptor, had made good with a grand opportunity. She has contributed one of the few—precious few!—satisfactory equestrian monuments to her country and time; and this, so far as present recollection goes, is an absolutely unprecedented achievement for a woman.”

Blois, France
Replicas of Huntington’s Joan of Arc were erected in Blois, France (she was awarded the purple rosette by the French Government and made an honorary citizen of Blois); Gloucester, Massachusetts; San Francisco, California; and Quebec, Canada.  Smaller versions are in museums around the country.

(And an interesting note: Eden writes that Huntington met her husband “sometime between 1915 and the Beaux Arts Ball in New York City, where Anna came masquerading as Joan of Arc.”)

Huntington lived a long life and had a very successful career as a sculptor. She and her husband, whom she married in 1923, are still known today for their philanthropy and the establishment of Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina.

Gloucester, Massachusetts
Her early monumental success with Joan of Arc was followed up with sculptures such as El Cid and Don Quixote, and many more which are listed in the Inventory of American sculpture.

The photographs of Huntington's Joan of Arc sculptures posted above are from the Photograph Archives of the American Art Museum:

1. Model for Joan of Arc, 1910 (American Sculpture Photograph Study Collection)
2. Joan of Arc, 1915, Riverside Drive, New York City (American Sculpture Photograph Study Collection)
3. Joan of Arc, Blois, France (American Sculpture Photograph Study Collection)
4. Joan of Arc, Gloucester, Massachusetts (Peter A. Juley & Son Collection)

Eden, Myrna G. Energy and Individuality in the Art of Anna Huntington, Sculptor and Amy Beach, Composer. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1987. (In Smithsonian Libraries)

Evans, Cerinda W. Anna Hyatt Huntington. Newport News, VA: Mariners Museum, 1965. (In Smithsonian Libraries)

Read previous posts on women sculptors Bessie Potter Vonnoh and Evelyn Beatrice Longman.

--Nicole Semenchuk, Research and Scholars Center, American Art Museum 


  1. Joan of Arc is a favorite historical figure of mine. Thank you for writing this post! I had no idea Joan has statues in the US.

  2. The replica in Quebec City was received from anonymous donors...shortly after an incognito visit in 1938 by Anna and her husband Archer. For moral and historical considerations the statue is displayed in a dedicated sunken garden in the City's National Battlefields Park. i.e. Joan of Arc is a universal symbol of courage and patriotism; she championed the French to oust the British; the Battlefields grounds is where the French were defeated by the British during the decisive battle of September 1759 for the supremacy over Canadian territory.

  3. What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
    The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.