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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Not Your Average Joan



Above: Antonin Mercié (French, 1845-1916), Jeanne d'Arc, 1875-1900, The Art Institute of Chicago, George F. Harding Collection, 2014.653

One of the commonest questions I get about armor is whether women ever wore it. In general, the answer is no, but there was one very famous exception. When Joan of Arc set out with the French army to rescue the country from the English invaders, she was given a suit of armor that must have saved her life many times over—she was always in the thick of battle, and was seriously injured several times.

Many artists over the centuries have been drawn to the image of the armored Joan. This month, Antonin Mercié’s gilt bronze bust of the warrior saint joined our Knights! exhibition to remind us that even in the Middle Ages, a woman might become a hero.

Joan is on loan to us from The Art Institute of Chicago for a year. As it happens, this almost exactly how long her meteoric military career lasted before she was captured and sold to her English enemies—but not before she had turned the tide of the Hundred Years’ War.

Learn more about KNIGHTS!

- Jeffrey L. Forgeng, Curator of Arms & Armor and Medieval Art

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