By Stephan Salisbury: Inquirer Culture Writer

At 11:05 Wednesday morning, a small group of people standing
near 25th Street and Kelly Drive began to beam.

"Is it done?" wondered Margot Berg.
"Yeah," responded Kate Brockman.
"Should we shout vive la France?" Berg joked.

Both looked up at the dazzling gold of a completely regilded,
repaired, and reinstalled Joan of Arc sculpture, finally back
home after nearly nine months in rehab.

Joan, in her shimmering solar state, is something you notice.

Drivers passing the flatbed truck and crane that nudged the two-
to three-ton bronze piece back onto its pedestal honked. A group
in a car headed up Kelly Drive cheered.

Many residents of the Philadelphian condos peered down on the
workers and sculpture with obvious pleasure. They can again tell
their visitors to "turn at Joan of Arc."

Reinstallation went without a hitch, said Adam Jenkins, conservator with Milner & Carr Conservation L.L.P., which regilded the city-owned sculpture.

Berg, head of the city's public art program, gazed up at the golden image of Joan bearing a standard on horseback and said,
"She's in spectacular shape, so dramatic."

At 4 p.m. Thursday, the sculpture, by French artist Emmanuel
Frémiet and bestowed on Philadelphia by the French community
in 1890, will be rededicated at a ceremony to be attended by
Mayor Nutter and members of the Philadelphia chapter of the
French Heritage Society, among others. Nutter and Julia Ward,
chapter cochair, are scheduled to speak, and a theater troupe
will perform a bit of Shakespeare in Joan's honor.

The society raised $15,000 toward the conservation project.
The city provided $50,000.

Frémiet's bronze sculpture, originally ungilded, was first installed
near the Schuylkill and Girard Avenue. In 1959, the Fairmount
Park Art Association, which helped acquire it, had the sculpture
gilded - Frémiet's original intention - and moved it to a more visible spot on what was then called East River Drive near the
Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Last year's removal and regilding was prompted, Berg said, not
by any problems with the sculpture but by a crack in the pedestal
that required attention. The city decided it was a good opportunity
for conservation of the entire piece.

Just a few ounces of 23.5-karat gold leaf covered the entire piece,
which stands 15 feet from hoof of horse to top of rider. Gilding is
an extremely tough sheath and should last several
decades, Berg said.

Wednesday's reinstallation began around 7 a.m. at the
Milner & Carr studio behind the Crane Art Building on
American Street just north of Girard Avenue. By 9:15, Joan
had been loaded and strapped onto a flatbed truck, which
then proceeded very slowly down American Street, turning
right onto Spring Garden Street.

The sculpture swayed slightly, Jenkins said, but no damage
was done on the journey.

"It went extremely smoothly," he said. "I can't think of anything
that went wrong. We were afraid the gold would rub off [in transit], but she looks good."

Jenkins will return in a week or so for some touch-up work.

Brockman, a sculptor, followed Joan on her journey home.

"I caught up with her on Spring Garden and followed her down,
" she said after Joan had settled in. "I think she looks fabulous.
She's shockingly shiny right now, but fabulous.

"It was a real treat to see her up close - but it's nice to see her
back up where she belongs."

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Photos: Michael S. Wirtz / Staff Photographer