Joan of Arc, was painted by the French realist artist Jules Bastien-Lepage in 1879. After the province of Lorraine was lost to Germany following the Franco-Prussian War in 1821, The Frenchmen saw in Joan of Arc a new and powerful symbol. In 1875, Bastien-Lepage, a native of Lorraine began to make studies for a picture of her. In the present painting, exhibited in the Salon of 1880, Joan is shown receiving her revelation in her parents garden. Behind her are Saints Michael, Margaret, and Catherine. (Caption next to painting in The Metropolitan)
Jules Bastien-Lepage creates a realistic atmosphere, including a supernatural, religious-like presence within his painting. Oil on canvas was used to create the realistic quality of the work. By closely examining the artists technique, it is clear that he uses delicate brush strokes in a true to life manner. The colors, and use of light seem to be painted in a layered fashion to give the landscape a sense of depth. The background of the painting is a garden which include foliage and brush that surrounds the primary focus of the painting, Joan of Arc. The artist put a great effort into the details of the scene. Bastien-Lepage uses a distinct realistic quality in his painting which is visible in each individual leaf and branch. Various hues of earth tones, green and brown being the most evident, are blended together in the garden scene.
In the foreground of the painting is Joan of Arc. She is painted with a seemingly thicker paint technique. This makes her a more easily visible aspect in the painting, and catches the onlookers eye. Joan is dressed in a long brown skirt and blue-gray shirt with white underneath which is the typical clothing style of the 19th century. The clothing is painted to show its wear and tear. Her features and her figure are quite realistic. She seems to have a calm, but troubled expression on her face, as though she is deep in thought. Overall she is painted in a very detailed manner.
A less visible, yet still present and important aspect of the painting are the three figures positioned behind Joan, and in front of the house. The figures are somewhat transparent, and ghostly. Their presence adds a spiritual and or religious feeling to the scene. These three figures presence blends into the scenery. Al three have halos above their heads, and serene looks on their faces.
The saint on the right is dressed in what looks to be armor. He looks brave, and as if he is standing guard or going into battle. The middle saint is a praying angel. She is in a dress with a gauzy, white presence around her. This whiteness gives her an ethereal quality which Bastien-Lepage has painted quite effectively, and adds to the spiritual feeling of the scene. Her presence in the painting seems to represent chastity and virtue. The last figure looks like a young girl or child, who is kneeling with her face hidden in her hands almost as if she is upset. Perhaps Bastien-Lepage painted these three saints not only to illustrate Joan receiving her visions, but to illustrate the bravery, religious yet childlike figure that she was.
Behind Joan of Arc, in the background of the picture is a house. Bastien-Lepage painted the house so that the masonry is visible. The house seems to be small in size, plain, and quaint. Surrounding the house is shrubbery, trees, and more of the garden which is seen throughout the painting.
This painting of Joan of Arc is very significant. Bastien-Lepage is able to effectively depict Joan as the true heroine that she was. This is significant because at the time there were not so many women heroines like her.