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Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Dear all,
here you can find all information about the next classes on legal icongraphy. Prof. Musson, a legal historian from Exeter University, is an expert of the field and will explain us the importance and the power of immages in the legal world.

Abstract of the 3 lectures

1. Legal Iconography: aims and sources
This lecture will consider what legal iconography is and why it is relevant to an understanding of law. It will also examine through illustrations (taken mainly from the medieval period) the different types of sources for studying images of law and justice.

2. Legal Iconography: justice in action
This lecture will explore the portrayal of particular judicial themes through visual images and their historical interpretation. It will concentrate on images of legal authority, justice and punishment and demonstrate the power of image to convey concepts of law and experiences of the legal system.

3. Legal Iconography: possibilities and limitations
This lecture will reveal the benefits of using visual sources for an understanding of the historical practice of law and the workings of the judicial system. It will also highlight some of the drawbacks of reliance on a creative artistic medium.

- A. Musson, Ruling "virtually"? Royal Images in Medieval English Law Books, in Melville C.,Mitchell L. (eds), Every Inch a King: Comparative Studies on Kings and Kingship in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds, Brill, 2012.

- A. Musson, Visual Sources: Mirror of Justice or 'Through a Glass Darkly', in Musson A.,Stebbings C. (eds), Making Legal History: Approaches and Methods, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Anthony Musson's CV
Professor Anthony Musson is Professor of Legal History in the School of Law at the University of Exeter and Director of the Bracton Centre for Legal History Research. He was a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London (2003-6) and is a Barrister of the Middle Temple. He researches in the field of medieval criminal justice and legal culture and has published extensively in these fields including (with W. M. Ormrod) The Evolution of English Justice (Palgrave McMillan, 1999), Medieval Law in Context (Manchester University Press, 2001) and (with E. Powell) Crime, Law and Society in the Later Middle Ages (Manchester University Press, 2009). Recent funded projects have enabled him to pursue research into legal iconography (British Academy, 2002-5, 2007) and the private lives of medieval and early Tudor lawyers (UK Economic and Social Research Council, 2007-9). Making Legal History (edited by Anthony Musson and Chantal Stebbings), the first volume to explore approaches and methodologies in legal history was published by Cambridge University Press in January 2012.


  1. A beautiful "representation of legal concepts in an artistic medium" (quoting professor Musson) could be find in Palazzo di Giustizia in Milan. The civil Court of Appeal holds an amazing tryptich by three famous artists: from the left we have "Giustizia romana" by Romano Romanelli, "Giustizia Corporativa" by Arturo Martini and "Giustizia biblica" by Arturo Dazzi. The first bas relief represents the traditional episode of the emperor Traiano who pardons a begging woman. "Giustizia Corporativa" is certainly the most suggestive of the three, and inspired some laudatory words by the writer Riccardo Bacchelli: "la Giustizia non guarda nessuno e vede tutto, mentre l'umanità sogna e lavora, medita e s'affanna, lotta ed ama, attorno al tronco su cui ella è seduta, dell'albero della scienza, del bene e del male." In the bas relief we can see a Lady Justice, with a perfectly calm and impassive expression on her face, sitting on the "tree of good and evil" and holding a libra and a sword, the typical attributes of justice. Around her the scene is separated in four big sectors, two representing mythological stories, while the others on the lower part show us two important themes: the family and the intellectuals. These are men of all ages, walking behind a lawyer and a bishop, symbolizing civil history, intellectual corporations, human and religious doctrine. Finally, "Giustizia biblica" represents king Solomon's justice, while on the background is depicted Adam and Eve's expulsion from Heaven by the Angel of Justice.
    I think that these three panels are a great example of legal iconography and give us the idea of the solemnity of Law, with a strong psychological impact. As professor Musson was saying at lesson, these statues really instill respect for law and the operations of justice.
    Beatrice Stefanini

  2. Hi everybody!
    I would like to invite you to pay attention to the work of Ambrogio Lorenzetti, master of the school of Siena in the fourteenth century.
    His main work is Allegoria ed Effetti del Buono e del Cattivo Governo, it's a cycle of frescoes preserved in the Public Palace of Siena, that had to inspire the work of governor citizens who gathered in these rooms. It's composed of four scenes arranged on three walls of a rectangular room, called Sala del Consiglio dei Nove.
    In particular if we focus on the third cycle, L'Allegoria del buon governo, we can see how here stands the figure of a wise old monarch who sits upon the throne, surrounded by the allegorical figures of Justice, Temperance, Magnanimity, Prudence, Fortess and Peace. On his head there are also the personifications of the theological virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity.
    Representing on one hand L'Allegoria del Cattivo Governo and on the other L'Allegoria del Buon Governo, the intent of Lorenzetti is clear: if the administration of the public affairs is based on social justice principles, the people benefit from public government.
    Anyway these are the links with the work's accurate description:

    Carlo Alberto Norzi

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