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Joan of Arc, Sick, Interrogated in Prison by the Cardinal of Winchester

Paul Delaroche

(1797 - 1856) | 982.6.1

Date : 1824 | Medium : Oil on canvas

The 1824 Salon marked the official birth of Romanticism as an artistic movement, only a few months after the death of Géricault. Hanging alongside paintings by Delacroix, Scheffer, Schnetz and Horace Vernet, Delaroche’s Joan of Art, Sick was particularly feted for its composition, inspired by Titian’s painting Pope Paul III and his Grandsons, its pronounced chiaroscuro and its colours ‘worthy of Veronese’s brush’. Above all the work is Byronesque in its sense of drama (Joan of Arc is interrogated by her tormentor), in the grandiosity of the posture of the Cardinal of Winchester (who in reality never visited Joan of Arc in prison) and in the direct invitation to engage in the emotion inherent in this confrontation between the imposing cardinal and the tearful young saint.

There is more to it than this however. Paul Delaroche knew how to extract the pure simplicity of a transcendent vision from a harsh reality, giving his paintings the freshness found among the most beautiful of Victor Hugo’s pages. In this scene, human frailty, with divine intervention, triumphs over the weight of earthly authority. Joan of Arc is sick, weak and frightened yet, heaven-bound, she prevails over the religious might that gives such weight to her sins and causes her accuser to point downwards rather than to heaven.