Joan of Arc in the Tapestry d’Azeghio
01 May 2020 | T. Russo
Joan of Arc (1412-1431) was a medieval knight who fought for France and earned the name Maid of Orléans from her country in her role at Orléans during the Hundred Years’ War. She was a 17-year-old girl who led men into battle without any military training or experience. She attempted to negotiate peace first before fighting, but went to war against the English to assist France in a war the country was loosing and to crown a king. Her inspiration were the voices from God as she explained to her family, to Charles of France, and to the jury in court. With her victories during the war, the female heroine aided Charles VII of France in his coronation at Reims Cathedral on July 17, 1429. Joan of Arc was later captured by the troops of John of Luxembourg on May 24, 1430 (Siege of Compiègne) and was sold to the English where she stood trial. She was burned at the stake, but after her death her mother was able to receive a second hearing in which Joan of Arc was exonerated.
Her achievements as a knight and women of this period are celebrated in many artworks. The focus of the most recent TMA Museum Spotlight considers the Tapestry d’Azeghio (FR) or Azeghio Tapestry, depicting the Arrival of Joan of Arc at Chinon, the city where Joan of Arc met with King Charles to tell him: “Fair Dauphin, my name is Jeanne the Maid; and the King of Heaven speaks unto you by me and says that you shall be anointed and crowned at Reims, and be lieutenant of the King of Heaven, who is the King of France” (Anatole France, The Life of Joan of Arc, 1908). The museum spotlight discusses tapestries and textile while focusing on Joan’s life from one of the scenes of this great textile.
A German Tapestry called Tapestry d’Azeghio or AzeghioTapestry, depicting the Arrival of Joan of Arc (1410-1431) at Chinon. Located at the Musee Historique et Archeologique, Orleans, France; 15th century art. (Photo: Bulloz; Photo Credit: RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY; Image Reference: ART148587; Image size: 4048 X 3106 px)
Joan of Arc’s life has been recounted by many authors; however, her first biography was written by a female author, Christine de Pizan (1364-1430), while Joan of Arc was a knight for France. Christine de Pizan was in France because her father was called to serve the King. Christine de Pizan’s father was in favor of having her daughter study and receive an education as she tells us herself in Part II of The Book of the City of Ladies. Both her father and husband passed away and Christine de Pizan became a single mother, taking care both her children and mother by writing and creating illuminated manuscripts. Like Joan of Arc, she was an extraordinary woman in the Middle Ages and debated for the equality of women. She died before Joan was punished at the stake; thus, her book focuses on Joan as a knight and heroine of France. The poem, Ditié de Jehanne d’Arc (translated as the Tale of Joan of Arc) is invaluable to the study of Medieval France and the life of France’s heroine.
Shakespeare also includes Joan in his play, Henry VI in Part I, which provides an English point of view to her life and as expected Joan is represented in a negative way. The Anglocentric version of her life predictable considers Joan as an enemy and witch.
The celebrated author Mark Twain (1835-1910) who is known for his books, The Adventure of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), was also interested in the life of Joan of Arc, publishing a historical fiction entitled Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896). He studied her court cases in the archives and Joan’s speeches at the hearings. He represents her as a saintly woman prior to her canonization by the Catholic Church. Free access of this text can be found through Project Gutenberg: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2874/2874-h/2874-h.htm or see Oxford University Press edition (1996) in TMA shop.
In 2020, the Catholic Church celebrates Joan of Arc’s 100-year anniversary of her sainthood. The French Republic has devoted festivals to Joan of Arc on the second Sunday of May since 1920, the year she was canonized by the Catholic church, but celebrate her as a symbol of France. There may be some online tributes to the Maid of Orléans.
de Pizan. Christine. “The Tale of Joan of Arc.” The Selected Writings of Christine de PIzan. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997 (see pages 252-264).
France, Anatole. The Life of Joan of Arc (1908). (revised 2015 and trans. by W. Stephens)
Shakespeare, William. Henry VI Part I. Edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York: Washington Square Press, 2008.
Twain, Mark. Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896).
New Materials in French - Resources for Teachers:
A pamphlet about Jeanne d’Arc in French from the Musee Historique et Archeologigue:
How to cite this blog:
Russo, Teresa. "Museum Spotlight: Joan of Arc in the Tapestry d’Azeghio" Teaching the Middle Ages, May 1, 2020; revised 2022, https://www.teachingthemiddleages.com/post/museum-spotlight.