Essay on Art and Reproduction: Joan of Arc Images

In the Wallach Gallery exhibition of Anna Hyatt Huntington’s sculpture (1876-1973), the viewer gets to discover different versions of the emblematic figure that is Joan of Arc, from small bronze medals, to much bigger works of art. A digital replication of the initial statue that was unveiled at Riverside Drive and 93rd Street in December 1915 is also available the public in the gallery. The success of the Joan of Arc – or The Maid of Orleans’s depictions results from the symbol that she fosters in European and American culture: a French medieval patriotic heroine who received visions directly from God and who was told to help France combat the English domination and who died burned at the stake, as a martyr.She indeed survives through the manifold representations that have been made of this historic and popular figure. It is arguable that those layers of representations equate to ‘copies’ of Joan of Arc herself : copies of a lost original, recreated every time it is represented by a different artist, or narrator. And now, we have a copy of a 1915 representation of Joan of Arc – or, might one say, a copy of a copy of Joan of Arc.

But what is the real value of a copy? Is the statue on Riverside Drive worth more than the other representations that are exhibited in the Wallach Gallery? What brings the rotational photography to the initial work of art? Is something lost with the evolution of reproductive imagery, like the emotion of the instant, the spontaneity of the artist’s hand – the ‘aura’ of the original (as Walter Benjamin called it)?

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Joan of Arc’s images all over the world breed symbols of patriotism, linked with French nationalism, fresh youth, and fair sex. She inspired hundreds of works of art, from plaster casts to re…

…g digital museums already exists, because it would allow more people to discover works of art that are much in demand, without having to queue and be surrounded by people. The progresses in digital imagery are going to get even more faultless, but one should remember that it remains a copy, and that nothing is worth being transported by the emotion and the magic of contemplating the work of art itself.

Works Cited

Todorov, Tzvetan. Theories of the Symbol. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1982. Print.

Catalogue, Wallach Gallery Anna Hyatt Huntington exhibition

Coyle, Laura. Universal Patriot: Joan of Arc in America During the Gilded Age and the Great War and America. Washington, DC: Corcoran Gallery of Art in Association with D. Giles, 2006. Print.Benjamin, Walter, and J. A. Underwood. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. London: Penguin, 2008. Print.


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