Did Joan of Arc look like Nadiya Savchenko?

Jeanne, Nadia Savchenko and the sculpture from Orleans
Jeanne, Nadia Savchenko and the sculpture from Orleans

Our recent facial reconstructions of Joan of Arc were made in October  2014 and they were still being modified in March 2016  (“casus Serebriakova”). Meanwhile, since June 2014 the affair of the kidnapped Ukrainian military aviator Nadiya Savchenko has been in full swing in the East.

N. Savchenko on a popular Ukrainian tv program. Please not the shape of her nose, eyes, eyebrows and lips
N. Savchenko on a popular Ukrainian tv program. Please not the shape of her nose, eyes, eyebrows and lips

It was only this year that I started to pay attention to the photographs of the aviator, who in Ukraine has been directly compared to Jeanne d’Arc. However, while the Ukrainians do so for political, patriotic and national reasons, our attention has been drawn to the facial features of Nadiya Savchenko, which somehow seemed “familiar” to us. When we looked closer at them, we saw clearly why they seemed so. As we have been, for months, on and off, attempting to reconstruct the face of Joan, it therefore struck us that Savchenko’s facial features resembled somewhat those of the portrait of Jeanne des Armoises from the castle in Jaulny in Lorraine, as well as the facial features of the stone sculpture from Orleans, and of course the features our facial reconstruction of Joan of Arc.

Both profiles in line
Both profiles in line

Let us then review these resemblances – and the differences – between these physiognomies. When we compare the faces of Savchenko and des Armoises, what strikes us is that Savchenko has her jaw much more protruding at the front. At the same time however she has similar eyes, nose and eyebrows and to a certain degree also her mouth which make for her main similarities to Jeanne d’Arc. Most obviously we take into account that the portrait from Jaulny depicts a woman in her middle age, while Savchenko is currently (in 2016) slightly over 35 (born on 11 May 1981). How she looked in her twenties one can see on her older photos, that is on the photos which show her in an age similar to the one of Jeanne d’Arc from her military campaigns.

A general remark to be made about the portrait from Jaulny is that while it shows a facial profile, it is however not a full profile. We first found it to be the case while having observed the eye which only partially looks like a profile of an eye. Because even if the iris of the eye were to be shown as an ellipse that would be as it looks from a profile view, whereas the WHOLE eye is shown as if observed from the front. The same can be determined about the eyebrow, of which only the left part looks like seen on a facial profile while the whole right side, that is the upper part, is shown as seen from the front.

Egyptian way of facial profile painting
Egyptian way of facial profile painting
...and two Greek examples
…and two Greek examples

This style of painting is very old, and we see it on Ancient Egyptian and Greek paintings. And nowadays so-called “half-face” profiles are being made in photography, like on these examples which we specially borrowed from the net.

If we had to draw a conclusion about the difference in the appearance of Joan and Nadiya, then, in addition to the jaw, which for the purpose of our reconstruction we have pushed back for it to be completely in line with the profile of Joan des Armoises, Joan’s eyes seem to be more prominently protruding compared to Nadiya’s eyes.

Taking into account the age at which Joan des Armoises appeared in Metz (20 May 1436) and then in Cologne, Orleans or Paris, that is around or above 30 years of age, she could have looked even approximately like on the following illustration.

“Joan des Armoises”

What strikes us here is the extent to which this physiognomy appears to be similar to that of a young man. According to one Medieval source, Joan of Arc, after she was captured by the Burgundians (23 may 1430), was to maintain she was a man and only when her full armour was taken off her did her gender became apparent to her captors. Witnesses who testified in Joan’s trial of rehabilitation, claimed repeatedly that Joan had something masculine about her. And while Joan had a “masculine bearing” in relation to clothing and hairstyle, it is not inconceivable that her facial features may have also contributed to the impression that she made on her contemporaries. And to what extent hairstyle may have contributed to such an impression can be shown by a comparison between Nadiya Savchenko’s current photos and those showing her with her long hair.

Nadiya Savchenko with her long hair
Nadiya Savchenko with her long hair

Anyone who had the opportunity to browse through virtually hundreds of  Nadiya Savchenko’s photographs, will be struck by the fact of how RARELY she wears dresses or skirts and how rarely she wears make-up (only for special occasions) and on the other hand how often she dresses up like a man. That she used to wear a uniform was due to her service as a professional military pilot. But what to say of her inclination towards wearing male clothing, or to the wearing of a male hat, or to the constant habit of cutting her hair short like a military officer even now when she no longer serves in the army and instead is a member of the Ukrainian parliament? How much this distinguishes Nadiya Savchenko from yet another famous character of the current political scene in Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko!

In the time of Jeanne d’Arc and Jeanne des Armoises such inclinations would have given reason for many scandals, though nowadays of course not. Nevertheless there remains the impression of a personality similar in some ways to Joan’s. Both she and Joan have shown a considerable degree of belligerence, and they both have proved themselves in the military profession. They both have also shown how they appreciated intransigence.
About her belligerence many were talking already at school where she was nicknamed Xena The Warrior.

Propaganda “portrait” of Nadiya Savchenko. On the left her quoted statement: “If Ukraine needs my death, I am ready to die”. On the right a slogan “Freedom or death”

Often it has been pointed out that sometimes similar physical traits may characterize similar personalities (“psycho-physical characteristics”). Savchenko not only has some facial traits of Joan but is also of slender build, and quite likely Joan of Arc had similar bodily shape too, as we pointed out while having reviewed Walter Rost’s book. It was once noted in the past that Joan had a relatively short neck and Nadiya Savchenko has one, too.

We do not claim that Nadia is a kind of “double” to Joan of Arc or Jeanne des Armoises, only that she seems to have some  physical characteristics and personality of those two women from the French Middle Ages. Nevertheless, Savchenko could be a living image of the same TYPE of  woman represented both by Jeanne d’Arc and Jeanne des Armoises.

To the far right: Jeanne's facial reconstruction by Professor Ursula Witwer-Backofen; in the centre: our own altered version of it. To the left: Nadia Savchenko in her twenties
To the far right: Jeanne’s facial reconstruction by Professor Ursula Witwer-Backofen; in the centre: our own altered version of it from 2012. To the left: Nadiya Savchenko in her twenties

Some time ago we decided to produce a kind of a “photographization” of the profile-portrait from the castle of Jaulny in Lorraine.
Albeit it proved time-consuming and required a lot of patience, we were not and are not satisfied with the result obtained then, as the face created is markedly different from the one of Jeanne des Armoises, in spite of us keeping the line of the profile.  The input of work however was not completely wasted because the resulting image can be used in our future endeavours.

Therefore now (2 January 2017) we have created a second “photographization”. However this time only fragments of photographs of Nadiya Savchenko were used for the purpose of facial reconstruction. Despite the difference in graphic (photo VERSUS painting) the final result corresponds much more with the face of the aristocrat from Jaulny. One can see similarities of the lips, nose, eye (together with the colour of the iris!), eyelids and eyebrow.

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