During the 16th and 17th centuries, the epic poem flourished as a medium to display patriotism, religious conviction, and classical scholarship.

Among other admirers of Joan,the French scholar Jean Chapelain published a monumental biography in verse, La Pvcelle, ov La France Deliverée (below). It is generally accounted mediocre, but it inspired a far more masterful work. When Voltaire read this poem he declared that the French language was not suitable for the heroic epic - and began work on his mock heroic Pucelle.


Voltaire takes the appellation 'the Maid' literally, and turns the historical contest between the French and the English into a battle for Joan of Arc's virginity, upon which the fate of the war depends. In a work which focuses on the sexual exploits and desires of the characters (ascribed without regard to historical fact) the Maid is the subject of a series of attempted rapes and seductions, and in fact becomes the loverof the Count Dunois. It is difficult not to see in the risqué engravings, attributed to Henri Gravelot, a reflection of the 'heroic' nudity in the edition of Chapelain. In the illustration shown at right, Joan has been defeated in battle by John Chandos; he intends to rape her, but he will be denied this 'victory' when St. Denis makes him impotent. In the image at the left, she escapes the attentions of her heaven-sent winged donkey.