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Sunday, April 8, 2012


Dear all,
next week we will have 3 very intence lectures on law and iconography and law and literature. You can find below a very detailed outline of the lectures. As you will see, prof. Watt asks you to prepare before his classes reading texts, choosing pictures, thinking about metaphors. I am sure you will enjoy this week a lot!

Seminar One:
Wednesday 11th April 2012

“Foundations: architectural metaphors of law and society”

“A lawyer without history or literature is a mechanic, a mere working mason; if he possesses some knowledge of these, he may venture to call himself an architect”.
Sir Walter Scott, Guy Mannering (1815)

“In that jurisdiction precedes law, in that it marks the point of entry into the juridical sphere and speech, it has to be visible in advance of utterance and hence must be a property of communal space, of the architecture of the institution, of context and vestment that can be apprehended prior to any discursive intervention in the name of legality.” Peter Goodrich, “Visive Powers: Colours, Trees and Genres of Jurisdiction” (2008) 2(2) Law and Humanities 213–231, 214.

“Civilisations cannot be built mechanistically – there must be art as well as science. Where the stones of law are stubborn we must turn to the art of equity. If law is the mason’s art of producing rectilinear stones from the bedrock of nature, equity is the sculptor’s art of revealing the human form from within the rectilinear stone. As the great American jurist, Judge Learned Hand, once said: ‘the work of a judge is an art…[i]t is what a poet does, it is what a sculptor does’” G Watt, Equity Stirring: The Story of Justice Beyond the Law (2009)

“law matters because of death and time and our care for others. Like architecture or language, it is part of the work of cultures which seeks to reach across time, and beyond life”
Desmond Manderson, ‘Desert Island Discs (Ten reveries on pedagogy in law and the humanities)’ (2008) 2(2) Law and Humanities 255–270, 270.

Identify an architectural metaphor employed in the legal language of Italy or elsewhere – and come prepared to discuss it. (For a general introduction to the dominance of metaphors in US legal language, read Bernard J. Hibbitts, “Making Sense of Metaphors: Visuality, Aurality, and the Reconfiguration of American Legal Discourse”, 16 Cardozo L. Rev. 229 (1994) (accessible at

Seminar Outline:
We will consider the significance to legal language of the architectural metaphors, including the metaphors of “the rule” and “the level ground”. We will also critically examine the following two quotes which use architectural metaphors to explain “equity”:

“The formall cause of Equity is the matching and levelling of facts falling out, and the circumstances thereof, with the rules of the Law, as buildings are framed to carpenters lines and squares...Not unfitly is Equity termed the rule of manners: for as by a rule the faults of a building are so discovered, so doth equity judge aright, both of the written law, and also of all mens actions and behaviours: and therefore such as are ministers of Justice, apply and frame their judgments, after the square and rule of good and legal, that is to say, of God’s Law, and the Lawes of Nature”
William West, Symboleography (1593)

“When the law speaks universally, then, and a case arises on it which is not covered by the universal statement, then it is right, where the legislator fails us and has erred by oversimplicity, to correct the omission-to say what the legislator himself would have said had he been present, and would have put into his law if he had known. Hence the equitable is just, and better than one kind of justice-not better than absolute justice but better than the error that arises from the absoluteness of the statement. And this is the nature of the equitable, a correction of law where it is defective owing to its universality. In fact this is the reason why all things are not determined by law, that about some things it is impossible to lay down a law, so that a decree is needed. For when the thing is indefinite the rule also is indefinite, like the leaden rule used in making the Lesbian moulding; the rule adapts itself to the shape of the stone and is not rigid, and so too the decree is adapted to the facts.”
Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, Book V chapter 10

Seminar Two
Thursday 12th April 2012
“Honoré Daumier and the Moving Image of Law”

“a painter so mighty, that no terms can exaggerate the greatness of his importance”.
- Julius Meier-Graefe (Florence Simmonds, trans.)

“Dictus et Amphion, Thebanae conditor arcis,
Saxa movere sono testudinis, et prece blanda
Ducere quo vellet. Fuit haec sapientia quondam,
Publica privatis secernere, sacra profanis…leges incidere lingo”.
Horace, De Arte Poetica

[Amphion too, the builder of the Theban wall, was said to give the stones motion
with the sound of his lyre, and to lead them -whithersoever
he would, by engaging persuasion. This was deemed
wisdom of yore, to distinguish the public from private weal,
things sacred from things profane…to engrave laws on tables of wood.]

This seminar is based around an annotated slideshow of the life and art of Honoré Daumier (1808-1879) is an exploration of the artist’s remarkable power to reveal human motivations and to move his viewers through images which for the most part were lithographic caricatures and therefore quite literally “set in stone”. Focusing on his representation of the legal profession, we discover that Daumier’s project was to present the theatrical show of law – complete with chiaroscuro lighting, costume, stage, props, gestural rhetoric and, most significant of all, a director’s insight into what motivates the actors.

• Look up the subject of “lawyers” at
• Bring a picture (by any artist) demonstrating chiaroscuro and be prepared to discuss its symbolic significance to the law.
• Read the extract from the editorial to (2008) 3(1) Law and Humanities (set out below).

Seminar Outline: We will discuss the significance of the chiaroscuro images you have found, and some others that I will bring to the seminar. Are you familiar with the phrases “black letter law” and “bright line rule”? Is anything in nature black and white? Is the law? Be prepared to produce your own chiaroscuro study of the law – materials will be supplied!

Gary Watt on law, architecture and the art of chiaroscuro in the work of Honoré Daumier, from the Editorial to 3(1) Law and Humanities (2008):
“Daumier’s work exhibits a complete mastery of composition, line, tone and – when used, which was relatively seldom – colour. A distinctive feature of much of his work is the bold use of chiaroscuro (or clair-obscur), which is the use of dark shadow and bright light to produce dramatic tonal contrast. This feature is the foundation for many of his greatest oil paintings - including Le Lutteur (1852-53); Les Deux Avocats (1855-7); L’Homme à la corde (1858-60); La Laveuse (1860-1) and Crispin et Scapin (1863-5) – and, of course, it is an almost universal feature of his caricatures, which were for the most part executed exclusively in black-and-white monochrome – or as we might term it nowadays, “greyscale”. One can attribute Daumier’s fascination with lawyers to many sources – including the fact that he was employed (at the age of twelve or thirteen) to act as a runner for a notary or bailiff in Paris and the fact that, around the same time, his father is said to have been a frequent visitor to the courts on account of his troubled business affairs – but whatever captured his artistic imagination, it was surely the singular contrast between lawyers’ white collars and black robes that captivated his artistic eye. In the introduction to the English language publication of Les Gens de Justice, Julien Cain notes that “Daumier saw this ‘magic lantern of black figures’ performed before his very eyes” (Les Gens de Justice (New York: Tudor Publishing, 1959) page 13). As for the deeply sardonic critique of lawyers that emerges through his work, that may be attributable to his republican – essentially revolutionary – political outlook, and to the fact that he was imprisoned in his early twenties for his caricature Gargantua (1831). This caricature depicts the last king to rule in France - Louis-Philippe I, so-called “King of the French” – seated on a commode throne continually “issuing” favours whilst being continually fed by the bourgeoisie....
Daumier deserves his place in the pantheon of Law and Humanities, because he exemplifies the central aim of the whole project – which is to cast external scholarly or artistic illumination upon law and lawyers. But do Daumier’s caricatures cast too bright a light? Is his clair too brilliant, with the result that his obscur is too dark, too cynical? We do not think so. If there is an extremism to Daumier’s caricatures, it is attributable to a great extent to the somewhat journalist context in which those works appeared. There was also the need to ensure that the work was attractive to the editors and to the paying public. Surprising as it may seem to us, Daumier sometimes struggled to have certain pieces accepted – even, and perhaps especially, towards the end of his career. Despite this, the passionate humanity of the man is clear from his caricatures – his depiction of the lawyer leaving court with a tearful widow and her “orphan” child achieves pity and avoids sentimentality. The picture is so well drawn, the legend accompanying it in Les Gens de Justice is otiose: “Vous avez perdu votre procès c'est vrai ..... mais vous avez du éprouver bien du plaisir à m’entendre plaider”. This caricature appears as plate number 35 in Les Gens de Justice (see Stone number 1371:, and to conclude we will briefly consider the plate that immediately follows it. Plate 36 (Stone number 1372: depicts the grand staircase leading up to the Palais de Justice, which still stands at the heart of Paris on the Île de la Cité. Walking down the staircase are two lawyers, a few steps apart, each nursing a bundle of documents under his left arm. Each lawyer is looking straight ahead in full-frontal profile; faces devoid of passion, almost without expression – most un-Daumier-like. Their black robes drop straight, their white official scarves – an elongated version of what English barristers call “tabs” - hang from their collars rigidly perpendicular, as if starched. The plate carries the legend “Grand escalier du Palais de justice. Vue de faces”. The humour is as understated as was the pathos of the previous plate. The reference is architectural: here, in the language of architects, is a “front profile of the grand staircase”, and here – in the shape of lawyers – are two cold and rigid men of stone. The fact that the plate is itself a lithograph– and was therefore set in stone – adds a further dimension to the metaphor...Plate 36 was apparently based on an earlier wood engraving (1836), which is a pleasing metaphor for the way in which the law begins in nature before it is set in stone, but the evolution of the work does not end there. Daumier revisited the image around 1865 in the form of a mixed media work (charcoal, soft pencil, ink, watercolour and gouache on paper). The later version is entitled Le Grand escalier du Palais de justice. The pronoun “le” has been added, and the concluding clause “Vue de faces” has been removed. Accordingly, there is, on this occasion, no attempt to repeat the architectural joke. The composition of the picture broadly corresponds to the earlier lithograph, but there are significant differences. There is only one lawyer walking down the stairs, but that is not especially significant. What is significant is the fact that the lawyer is clearly moving – his hat is soft and sitting somewhat askew, his robes are flowing, his white scarf is ruffled and shifting and his feet can be seen stepping down the stairs, whereas before we did not see them. And there, on his chest, near his heart, is the smallest square of red – the ribbon of la Légion d’honneur. Apart from this small patch of red, the picture is grey or thinly washed in pale pink and yellow. There is hope in this image. The stone cold lawyer has moved. The colourless lawyer has a spark of passion in his heart. His face is still aloof but he is moving, and he is walking down from his lofty place, and he might just be walking towards humanity”.

Seminar Three
Friday 13th April 2012
Law, Performance and the Sign of Blood

• Please bring a quotation from any theatrical drama (in any language and of any era) in which the physical stain of blood is linked to a legal theme.
• Read Act 3 scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar – especially Antony’s funeral oration in the Roman forum. (

Seminar Outline:
We will consider how blood is used in theatre to signify legal crisis, especially where the conflict is between the law of state and the laws of nature and the divine. I will demonstrate this through attention to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Sophocles’ Antigone. In Shakespeare’s play, Brutus appears, at first, to believe in a law of blood that is deeper than the law of the State, but his appeal to Roman blood is actually devoted to the political idea of Rome rather than to any personal notion of kinship. He is the dramatic descendant of King Creon in Sophocles’ Antigone, who placed the laws of the polis (the “city-State”) above any bond of familial blood. Brutus confirms that he would prefer to avoid bloodshed if there were any way to slay the spirit of Caesar, but alas “In the spirit of man there is no blood” and “Caesar must bleed for it!” (2.1.168-171). Brutus calls the conspirators to “dismember” Caesar; to cut him down to size. He acknowledges that he is plotting a performance for which there must be blood - for the issue of blood is inevitable where laws of family and friendship are made to conform to the laws of State; as Brutus acknowledges (in retrospect): “Did not great Julius bleed for Justice’s sake?” (4.3.21). In his oration at Caesar’s funeral, Mark Antony appropriates Brutus’ rhetoric of blood and turns it against him. At the climax of his speech, just before he reveals Caesar’s bloody corpse, he surveys Caesar’s bloody clothing wound by wound:

“Look, in this place ran Cassius’ dagger through:
See what a rent the envious Casca made:
Through this, the well-belovèd Brutus stabbed,
And as he plucked his cursèd steel away,
Mark how the blood of Caesar followed it,
As rushing out of doors, to be resolved
If Brutus so unkindly knocked or no,
For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar’s angel, -
Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar loved him. -
This was the most unkindest cut of all.” (3.2.171-180)

Antony appeals to higher laws than the law of the State. He appeals to the law of blood and the law of the gods. The appeal to the gods is obvious. The appeal to the law of blood is more subtle. Antony accuses Brutus of putting ephemeral matters of State before a kindred duty to Caesar, who was like a father to him. The repeated reference to Brutus’ “unkindness” is designed to emphasise his disobedience to the law of kindred blood. The description “most unkindest” is effective as an impassioned tortologous double-superlative, but it makes most sense if we understand “unkindest” to mean “not the sort of thing that should occur between kin”. Sophocles’ Antigone likewise considers the perpetual and unalterable laws of life, death and blood to be more fundamental than temporary laws of State and to be more fundamental, even, than laws governing the legal status of marriage:

“Had I had children or their father dead,
I’d let them moulder. I should not have chosen
In such a case to cross the State’s decree.
What is the law that lies behind these words?
One husband gone, I might have found another,
or a child from a new man in first child's place,
but with my parents hid away in death,
no brother, ever, could spring up for me.
Such was the law by which I honoured you.” (900-920)

Prof. Watt's CV

Gary Watt (b. 1969) is a graduate of New College, Oxford University, and a qualified Solicitor (non-practising). He is currently an Associate Professor and Reader in Law at the University of Warwick, having joined Warwick Law School in 1999. Since 2005 he has also been a visiting professor in comparative common law at the Université René Descartes (Paris 5) and since 2004 he has been one of the editors of the Mortgage group in the Project for a Common Core of European Private Law based at the Università di Trento. Gary is a passionate advocate for scholarship and teaching in the various fields of law and humanities and is one of the two founding editors of Law and Humanities (Oxford, Hart publishing) - the first UK-based journal dedicated to the examination of law by the lights of humanities’ disciplines. He is the co-editor of Shakespeare and the Law (Oxford, Hart publishing, 2008) and the author of numerous books, chapters and articles, including Trusts and Equity (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003) (currently in 3rd edition, 2008) and a forthcoming book on law and literature: Equity Stirring: The Story of Justice Beyond Law (Oxford, Hart publishing, 2009). He has also co-written for BBC Radio 3's Between the Ears strand with ‘Prix Italia’ winner Antony Pitts. Gary’s enthusiasm for his subjects (and for teaching them) has led to invitations to deliver lectures and seminars in places as diverse as Hong Kong, the US, Italy, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, and the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Gary was named UK “Law Teacher of the Year” in 2009.


  1. I think this metaphor to cicerone between law and medicine is very interesting.

    "Quam ob rem igitur leges servari oportet, ad eam causamscripta omnia interpretari convenit : hoc est , quoniam rei publicae servimus, ex rei publicae commodo atque utilitate interpretemur. Nam ut ex medicina nihil oportet putare proficisci, nisi quod ad corporis utilitatem spectet, quoniam eius causa est instituta, sic a legibus nihil convenit arbitrari, nisi quod rei publicae conducat,profisci, quoniam eius causa sunt comparatae "

    That is to say, since we are servants of the republic, let us interpret the laws with reference to the advantage and benefit of the republic. For as it is not right to think that anything results from medicine except what has reference to the advantage of the body, since it is for the sake of the body that the science of medicine has been established; so it is desirable to think that nothing proceeds from the laws except what is for the advantage of the republic, since it is for the sake of the republic that laws were instituted.
    Cicerone, De inventione, Book I, 68.

  2. I was thinking to one of the main elements of architecture: the cement. It's used since Roman period and it generates structural strength performing his function through the collaboration of a binder and aggregates.
    Maybe we could find into the law some elements or arguments, joined by a common 'binder', that make the law applicable/efficient. For example into the cases, the prosecution and the defense are binded to the adversarial principle (guaranteed by the judge) to perform their functions. Also rules and regulations need a common binder for being applicable: they need to be written.

  3. Hi everybody,
    maybe another example of architectural metaphor employed in the legal language, could be represented by the "point of wiew " or the "prospective" as the interpretation in law.Even in relation to what Prof. Watt says today about the possibility to see in a different way the colour of a table.I think that the prospective change the vision...In Art, for example in "collonnato Vaticano" of Bernini, if you stand yourself in a defined point of the square you can see all pilars, all columns allineat like once, but if you move from this point the vision will change completely.In the same way in law, expecially in common law sistem,the interpretation help us to better understand the meaning of the rules, but in any different cases it may differs; infact we can remember the fantastic interpretation of Portia about the contract in The Merchant of Venice.
    Best regards
    Benedetto Loris Gaudino

  4. Hi!! I found part of macbeth that shows well the theme of blood and state.For the throne of England Macbeth and his wife commit many murders and blood-stained, very important is the scene of Lady Macbeth in her sleep that confesses her crimes.

    Out, damned spot! out, I say!--One: two: why,
    then, 'tis time to do't.--Hell is murky!--Fie, my
    lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we
    fear who knows it, when none can call our power to
    account?--Yet who would have thought the old man
    to have had so much blood in him.

    Do you mark that?

    The thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?--
    What, will these hands ne'er be clean?--No more o'
    that, my lord, no more o' that: you mar all with
    this starting.

    Go to, go to; you have known what you should not.

    She has spoke what she should not, I am sure of
    that: heaven knows what she has known.

    Here's the smell of the blood still: all the
    perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little
    hand. Oh, oh, oh!

    What a sigh is there! The heart is sorely charged.

    I would not have such a heart in my bosom for the
    dignity of the whole body.

    Well, well, well,--

    Pray God it be, sir.

    This disease is beyond my practise: yet I have known
    those which have walked in their sleep who have died
    holily in their beds.

    Wash your hands, put on your nightgown; look not so
    pale.--I tell you yet again, Banquo's buried; he
    cannot come out on's grave.

    Even so?

    To bed, to bed! there's knocking at the gate:
    come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What's
    done cannot be undone.--To bed, to bed, to bed!

  5. Referring to the lessons we took with prof. Gary Watt I just wanted to say that I really appreciated this method of trying to teach us conecpts through the analysis of images(photographs,litographs,paintings..etc).
    Personally searching for an image which could be a 'chiaroscuro' and which represented the law, I've chosen the work of art 'Relativity'(1953), by the dutch artist, famous for his litographs,woodcuts and mezzotints, Maurits Cornelis Escher.
    This litograph is one of his most important works. He is well know for creating impossible architectural systems and, in this one in particular, it's incredible the fact that the concepts of 'up,down,right,left' rea lly depend from what point of view the observator wants to look at it.
    In my opinion this piece of art is linked to law in many different ways.
    -I think for example to the idea of the equity system, which differs from the point of view of straight law, trying to make the law fit to the humanity. I see a bound between this and the litograph throughout the notion of 'relativity'. The possibilty of taking oppositie directions in every single case, 'move' the rules without 'breaking' them.
    -Besides it makes me think about lawyers in general,who are often descibed as dangerous, in a negative nuance, because they are able to change opinions, simply depends from what point of view they decide to analyse an issue!
    -Furthermore I thought about Judges and 'relativity'. By this I mean that sometimes the possibilty that they'll take one decision or another is linked to the level of freedom and discretion they have in their own judicial systems.
    -Moreover, looking at this image, I also thought about the principle we have in our criminal law system, 'prove something beyond any possible doubt'. I think that this also implies a great capacity of looking at situations from all the possible points of view ( relativity again!).

  6. As I said in prof. Gary Watt's lesson, blood in tragedy has not only a meaning of vouching for the enforcement of contracts, but also in tragedy is a symbol of sense of guilt which neve goes alone.
    For instance in Macbeth:
    Macbeth: 'it will have blood: they say, blood will have blood'.
    Lady Macbeth: 'Come, tour spirits of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood'.
    Macbeth: 'Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinuous seas in incarnadine, making the green one red'.
    Macbeth: 'And thy balde and dungeon gouts of blood, which were not so before. There is no such thing: it is the bloody business that informs thus to' mine eyes'
    Macbeth: 'And with thy bloody and invisible hand cancel and tear to' pieces that great bond which keeps me pale'
    Lady Macbeth: 'Why did you bring these daggers from the place! They must lie there. Go carry them and smear the sleepy grooms with blood'.