next week classes will be held by Prof. Georges Martyn (Gent).
The main theme around which the three lectures will be developed is law and iconography.
How are law and iconography related?
Here following you'll find some helpful introductory remarks on the law and iconography discourse (with a selection of suggested readings) - Buon lavoro!
Law and Iconography
‘Law’ and ‘image(s)’ interact in many ways. Traffic signs, for instance, are at the same time ‘rules’ and ‘images’. Legislation on the protection of minors prohibits and penalizes the exhibition of pornographic material, artists risk to be held civilly liable when offending individuals or protected minorities by laughing at them in cartoons, etc. There is actually a lot of ‘law on art’, and all of these rules can be seen as part and parcel of the vast research field of ‘law and iconography’. However, subject of the three lessons in Rome will not be ‘law on art’, but rather ‘art on law’. This theme will be studied from a historical point of view. What will be focused on, is the representation of law, justice, legislation, and other legal concepts… Three themes will be treated.
The verticality of the law: how art is used to legitimize judicial power. Looking at the ‘places of justice administration’, starting under a tree in prehistoric times, passing by the medieval church entrances (with their red painted western doors) and the Renaissance painting of divine and historical exempla iustitiae, over the ‘templar’ architecture of nineteenth century palaces of justice, to the present day transparent office buildings of our contemporary courts, there is a connecting thread: worldly men (and recently women) deciding cases over their compatriots, try to legitimize their power by stressing the ‘higher’ origin of their competence. In the early middle ages, before Christianisation, the biggest tree of the village served as a gathering place for all important questions. The tree reaching to the sky, was replaced by the church and the religious legitimating of the judges’ competence was represented by Crucifixions and Last Judgments in the late middle ages. Again, the source of power was sought ‘above’, in heaven. Even after the French and American revolutions, the palaces of justice still resembled temples of worship. Although today, legitimising representations are far more scarce, we do still use expressions like: ‘Be you ever so high, the law is always above you’ (Thomas Fuller-Lord Denning). The verticality is still present today, be it for instance in the symbol of Lady Justice’s sword, ...and even in her blindfold (blind to the temporal world, she should only listen to the voice of God, the voice of fairness and truth), but in earlier times we found it also in justice trees, pillories, belfries, etc.
· A.L. Nettel, “The power of image and the image of power: the case of law”, Word and Image, 21, 2005, 527-539 (http://biblio.juridicas.unam.mx/libros/4/1650/30.pdf).
· G. Martyn, “Inspiring Images for Judges. Late Medieval Court Room Decorations in the Southern Netherlands”, in A. Kérchy, A. Kiss & G. Szönyi (eds.), The Iconology of Law and Order (Legal and Cosmic), in Papers in English & American Studies, XXI, Szeged (Hungary), Jatepress, 2012, 41-53 (https://www.academia.edu/4514582/124_Inspiring_Images_PRINTING_PROOF_not_for_distribution_WRONG_PAGES_should_be_41_to_53).
Signs, symbols, gestures and tools: legally telling details in (religious and profane) art. Lady Justice’s blindfold, sword and scales, an ‘iconographic construction’ of the Renaissance, are still understood today as symbols of justice and law. Many other symbols and signs, however, but also objects and (portrayed) gestures, in our contemporary eyes, do no longer spread the message they sent to spectators in earlier centuries. It is an interesting quest for jurists and legal historians to go and visit museums, using ‘legal (historical) spectacles’. Artistic iconography was undoubtedly influenced by law. Left and right, for instance, have an important legal meaning; the overall (religious) influence of the antithesis ‘good and bad’ was paramount; colours of cloths can tell us about the goodness or badness of the persons wearing them; a branch of a tree can tell us that the man holding it is a judicial officer; the use of a glove can refer to marriage, etc. Very few paintings or other works of art explicitly deal with law and justice as such, but quite often, juridical elements are present, be it very often as hazardous details. A classical example is the depiction of the Gospel’s scene of Jesus being brought before Pontius Pilate. Although this story is to be situated in the first century, many artists show Pilate as a medieval, early modern or modern judge. This way, we get to know the robes of the judges, their bench, their symbols... We can probably ‘trust’ these representations more – as they are just unimportant details slipping in without thinking about them – than, for instance, the many representations of torture and execution, represented in paintings, drawings and statuary of saints and martyrs. If we compare these representations to marginal drawings by court clerks, for instance, we should conclude that a lot of artistic exaggeration was used for religious purposes.
· I. Bennett Capers, "Blind Justice", Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, 24.1, 2012, 179-189 (http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1382&context=yjlh).
· N. Illman Meyers, "Painting the law", Cardozo arts and entertainment law journal, 14, 1996, 397-406 (http://www.cardozoaelj.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/meyers.pdf).
Jurists exalted and fooled: For centuries artistic creation was all about religion..., all or almost all, only the king and the higher nobility being able to command portraits. It is striking that jurists were the first non-nobles and non-religious to have their portraits painted. This tells a lot about the social positions jurists were able to rise to, being professors, councillors, judges and advocates. But pretty soon, the juridical guild was also criticised, in songs and stories, but also in pictorial art. We see them represented as vultures, foxes, wolves and monkeys. Especially their hunger for money is portrayed.
Images indeed can be used to both exalt and fool the men of law.
· R.J. Schoeck, “The aesthetics of the law”, American Journal Juris, 28, 1983, 46-63 (http://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/ajj28&div=6&collection=journals&set_as_cursor=3&men_tab=srchresults#50).
· P. Goodrich, “Visiocracy: On the futures of the fingerpost”, Critical Inquiry, 39.3, 2013, 498-531 (http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.1086/670043?uid=28383&uid=3737592&uid=2134&uid=2&uid=70&uid=3&uid=67&uid=5911848&uid=28382&uid=62&sid=21103460510623).
Prof. Martyn's CV:
Biography: Georges Martyn (born in Avelgem, Belgium, 1966) studied Law (1984-89) and Medieval Studies (1989-91) in Kortrijk and Leuven (Belgium) and obtained a Ph.D. degree in Law at the Catholic University of Leuven in 1996, with a dissertation on private law legislation in the early modern Netherlands. He has been an ‘advocaat’ (barrister/lawyer) between 1992 and 2008 at the bar of Kortrijk, is now honorary member of the Ghent bar, and is a substitute justice of the peace in Kortrijk since 1999. He is full professor at the University of Ghent (Department of Jurisprudence and Legal History) since 1999 and leads the Institute of Legal History (www.rechtsgeschiedenis.be) since 2010. He teaches ‘History of Politics and Public Law’, ‘General Introduction to Belgian Law’ and ‘Legal Methodology’. His publications deal with the history of private law and legal institutions in the Netherlands in the early modern era, the reception of Roman law, the legal professions, the evolution of the sources of the law in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and legal iconography. He was appointed by royal decree a member of the Belgian Royal Commission for the Edition of the Old Law (http://justitie.belgium.be/nl/informatie/bibliotheek/koninklijke_commissie_uitgave_belgische_oude_wetten_en_verordeningen/), he is the Flemish editor-in-chief of the Belgian-Dutch legal history review Pro Memorie (http://www.verloren.nl/pro-memorie) and co-editor of the series Studies in the History of Law and Justice (http://www.springer.com/series/11794). Bibliography on the Ghent University website (https://biblio.ugent.be/person/801001322489) and Academia.edu.