New York City is full of amazing discoveries. Today, I took a walk from west 86th and Broadway heading north to 94th Street and then (west) to Riverside Drive. Continuing, I headed south on Riverside Drive back to west 86th Street.
I have walked in this area many times but usually not in the colder months. As I came down Riverside Drive to 93rd Street, I noticed a statue of a horse and rider. (When there are leaves on the trees this little park is hard to see from the street.) As I walked up the steps, I realized that it was a statue of Joan of Arc.
Here she is a national hero in France, sitting astride a strutting stallion overlooking the Hudson River. The story of how it came to be placed in Riverside Park is an interesting one. The idea for it all came from a group of New Yorkers who were keen, for whatever reason, to mark the 500th anniversary of Joan’s birth. They traveled to the Paris Salon of 1910 on a fishing expedition for possible ideas or leads on sculptors, and there they saw a plaster statue of Joan of Arc by Anna Hyatt, the future Mrs. Huntington. Hyatt, who was an unknown carver of animals at the time, had gone to France to study and had become smitten with Joan’s story.
Hyatt’s statue of Joan of Arc was widely praised, but Hyatt received only an honorable mention from the judges because no one at the Salon believed a woman could make such a statue without a man’s help. …No kidding. The Americans offered her the commission for the statue in Riverside Park. By that time, the monument was commemorating more than the young martyr. World War I had started, and the statue became a sort of salute to the perceived indomitable nature of the French.
It was, near as I can figure, the first statue made by a woman to be installed in New York City. (And, for that matter, the first statue of a woman.) Hyatt did most of her work at her family’s home in Gloucester, Mass., using her niece and a fire department’s horse as models and researching medieval armor and whatnot at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The statue was dedicated on Dec. 6, 1915. Joan of Arc, who was born in 1412, was burned at the stake for heresy on May 30, 1431, was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 1909 and canonized as a saint in 1920. She was supposedly divinely inspired to help liberate the French from English rule.
. In 1920, the year Joan was canonized as a saint, 15,000 people gathered for the speech making, and the battleship U.S.S. Pennsylvania roused every pigeon on the Upper West Side with a 21-gun salute.
Bonus: Group of buildings located within this walking area.
Use bathrooms on Broadway before going west. Starbucks, McDonald and Petco (upstairs) at west 92nd.