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)?
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 reductions, in museums and public spaces. She was not only a symbol of heroism bot she inspired suffragettes and soldiers during the war. Ann Hyatt Huntington was one of New York’s most important sculptors, and one of the very few women in this field at the time. She began to thrive as the market for small sculptures, statuettes and medals started blooming. This explains the many reproductions In the Wallach Gallery, the viewer can observe different types of reproductions. The Joan of Arc, 1915, cast after 1917 in bronze can be compared to the Homage to the Maid of France, 1919 in Bronze as well. If the scale is radically different, they both represent the same heroine. One is in three dimensions and the other is sculpted on a medal. The armor and the helmet are the same but the position of the arms and the sword are different. The digitalized version obfuscates the comparison because it is a rotational photography of the original statue on Riverside Drive. The viewer gets to observe the Joan of Arc in every angle, without having to go there and having the view blocked by other spectators or trucks.
This reproduction embodies the immense progresses made in the imagery industry, which continues to grow.
The status of...