Légende de Jeanne d'Arc: Jeanne au bûcher

Eugène Grasset
Légende de Jeanne d'Arc: Jeanne au bûcher
en 1893
crayon, encre, aquarelle et gouache
H. 97,0 ; L. 57,0 cm.
Achat avec l'aide de la société des Amis du musée d'Orsay, 1993
© Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Eugène Grasset (1845 - 1917)
Artwork not currently exhibited in the museum

In 1893, a competition was organised to decorate the windows of the nave of the Sainte-Croix d'Orléans cathedral. It included a design for ten stained glass windows, illustrating the epic story of Joan of Arc who, in 1429, liberated the town from the English. Among the entrants was the partnership formed by master glassmaker Félix Gaudin and Eugène Grasset. The Musée d'Orsay has three of the drawings Grasset produced for the occasion, but which nevertheless bear the signatures of both men. This drawing represents Joan of Arc at the stake.
In the end it was the master glassmaker Esprit Gibelin and the painter Jacques Galland who won the competition. The intervention of the composer Charles Gounod, the grandfather of Galland's wife, no doubt had an influence on the jury's decision. Everybody was astounded at this choice as Eugène Grasset's cartoons were unanimously considered to be the best. The critic Arsène Alexandre declared: "Those people who have not been touched by the aesthetic and technical beauty of the cartoons and maquettes for the Joan of Arc competition, or who, being aware of this beauty, have moved on elsewhere, are guilty of one of the most striking denials of justice ever seen in the artistic history of our time".
Grasset's sketches were in fact striking for their undeniable unity of composition in spite of alternating scenes of majesty with highly animated scenes, for his in-depth knowledge of stained glass – for example the scrupulous detail of how the glass should be cut and the lead placed – as well as for the completely original interplay of light and colour. The studied and varied archaeological references in no way bring rigidity to these compositions, but rather confer an archaic aspect that Edouard Didron, a great theoretician of stained glass, referred to as "marvellously decorative".
Despite this, Félix Gaudin executed Grasset's maquette Joan of Arc at the Coronation of Charles VII, for the parish church of La Châtre, (Indre) between 1900 and 1903.

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