Beyond the Text: Illustrations in Eighteenth-Century French Novels

Voltaire: La Pucelle D'Orleans

In the second canto, Jeanne first narrowly escapes rape while she is sleeping, and is saved by Saint-Denis, her protector. She then presses on with Denis to find Charles VII, the French King, and on the way she goes through the English camp during the night. These two publishers made very different choices when it came to deciding which adventure should illustrate the whole canto. The Kehl edition illustrates the most scandalous passage, the attempted rape of a Christian heroine by a priest. The illustration is quite explicit, and even small details are represented, such as the dice thrown to decide who would take advantage of the Maid first.


Illustration of Canto II, « Le Moine gagne; un sorcier est heureux!/ Le Grisbourdon se saisit des Enjeux »,

Illustration of Canto II, « Le Moine gagne; un sorcier est heureux!/ Le Grisbourdon se saisit des Enjeux », Designer Moreau Le Jeune, Engraver Dambrun, Volume 11.

The illustrator of the other edition made a less scandalous choice by depicting instead the trick Jeanne plays on the English knight, Jean Chandos. He is lying in his tent in a drunken stupor, near one of his young page boys. The boy is sleeping face down and his naked posterior is highlighted. Jeanne draws three fleurs de lys, the symbol of the French monarchy, on his naked flesh. The anecdote ends on these lines of verse: “The good man Denis could see the French lily, perfectly at ease, on an English bottom.”

Illustration of Canto II, Buckingham edition

Illustration of Canto II, Buckingham edition.