Tag Archives: Art

An early detective? Jan van Scorel and a supposed papal murder case

PopeAdrian VI - painting by Jan van Scorel, 1523 - Utrecht, Centraal Museum

Pope Adrian VI – painting by Jan van Scorel, 1523 – Utrecht, Centraal Museum

If you had told me in 2013 I would one day write about legal history and graphic novels I would have severely doubted the truth of such a statement, but suddenly this combination became a reality when I heard about an exposition at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht, my home town. The focuses of the exhibition are a sixteenth-century Dutch painter, Jan van Scorel (1495-1562), and contemporary artist Paul Teng. Together with writer Jan Paul Schutten Teng has created a graphic novel on Van Scorel and his investigation of a mysterious death in Rome. Pope Adrian VI, the only Dutch pope, reigned the Catholic Church for only one year. His death on September 14, 1523, came rather suddenly. Jan Paul Schutten and Paul Teng created a story using historical facts to create a fictional account of a murder investigation started by Van Scorel who suspected that his compatriot might have been murdered. Jan van Scorel, Sede Vacante 1523 is the title of both the graphic novel and the exhibition. The 80 page book has also appeared in an English version.

The entrance to the exhibition at the Centraal Museum

In this post I would like to look at the creative process of two contemporary artists working with historical facts and their own imagination. Rumours that Adrian VI’s death was caused by poison have never been conclusively confirmed nor rejected as utter fantasy. The pope died after an illness of a month. An anecdote states that the Roman people thanked the physician who had taken care of the ailing pope. For the preparation of the graphic novel Teng and Schutten used historical sources. They looked carefully at the history of art in the early sixteenth century, helped by the collections of the Centraal Museum with several paintings by Van Scorel.

Setting the scene

Paul Teng took much care to make the historical surroundings of his novel as realistic and reliable as possible. He used early sixteenth-century paintings, drawings and engravings to ensure that locations in Rome and elsewhere are depicted faithfully. This means for instance that the basilica of St. Peter’s and the Vatican itself are shown as building sites. In the gallery with some photographs I took at the exhibition you can see other aspects of the creative process as well. From a story board with dialogues written by Schutten Teng took his lead to make sketches of the story. The exhibition shows the full sequence of the book in black and white. Some scenes are shown in their final coloured version. People are invited to draw themselves a page of a graphic novel on a chosen theme,

Accumulating functions and wealth

paushuize-utrecht

Pope Adrian VI (1459-1523) was born at Utrecht as Adriaen Floriszoon Boeyens. He studied theology at the university of Louvain, and he became a professor of theology at this university in 1489. In 1507 the Habsburg emperor Maximilian asked him to become one of the teachers of the future emperor Charles V. In 1516 he became the bishop of Tortosa in Spain. A year later he was created a cardinal. Charles V made him 1518 inquisitor-general of Castile and Aragón. Adrian became even the regent of Spain. During the minority of Charles V he had already been co-regent of Spain together with cardinal Francisco Jimenez de Cisneros.

Statue of Christ Saviour in the facade of Paushuize, Utrecht

Until 1522 Adrian got a large part of his income from prebends at several collegiate churches in the Low Countries and Spain. The very number of prebends pope Julius II allowed him to have in 1512 was restricted to four. Adrian finally became a canon of four churches in Utrecht: he was a canon at St. Peter’s and at Utrecht Cathedral (St. Martin’s) , treasurer of St. Mary’s and provost of St. Salvator’s (Oudmunster). However, the actual number of prebends he held was larger, and two prebends were shrewdly changed into annuities. His canonry at St. Peter’s in Utrecht enabled him to designate premises within the immunity of St. Peter’s as the site of a large house, a palace really, where he would have liked to live in Utrecht in good time. Adrian never saw the palace still called Paushuize, “The Pope’s House”. Interestingly, a statue in the facade shows Christ Saviour as a reminder he was the provost of the Salvator collegiate church. R.R. Post unravelled the history of these prebends in a fine article published in 1961 ['Studiën over Adriaan VI. De beneficies van Adriaan VI', Archief voor de Geschiedenis van de Katholieke Kerk in Nederland 3 (1961) 341-351; online at the Trajecta portal for the ecclesiastical history of the Low Countries, with digital versions of five scientific journals in this field].

There is a clear paradox between Adrian VI’s reputation as a pope who wanted the Church to live humbly, without unnecessary adornments and wealth, and his personal history in which he combined a large number of offices and accompanying revenues. In one of the scenes in which Teng depicts a meeting between pope Adrian and Jan van Scorel they discuss the plan to select art treasures from the Vatican’s holdings in order to sell them off to get money for the empty papal treasury.

The graphic novel opens with a scene showing a ritual which was long said to exist, the formal test done by the camerlengo to ascertain a pope’s death, by calling out thrice his baptismal name, “Adriane, dormisne” (Adrian, are you sleeping?), and giving a slight blow on his head with a special hammer. It is hard to find any real evidence for this custom, which if it really existed at all already ceased to happen in the seventeenth century. Today the camerlengo still has the task to certify the death of a pope. However, it is certainly followed by the immediate destruction of the papal ring, an element Teng and Schutten correctly added immediate after the scene with the probing camerlengo.

Here I will not spoil the joy of anyone wanting to enjoy and read the book by Teng and Schutten by giving away the plot or pronouncing verdicts on the historical veracity or plausibility of the facts they describe. They admit to have added some minor figures to ensure the story can run as it does. Giving Van Scorel a servant is just a time-honoured homage to the practice of detective novels with an investigator and his faithful assistant. The story told by Teng and Schutten can serve as an invitation to look anew at the stories historians like to tell. They can learn from the skillful way Teng shows a sequence of scenes, using for example close-ups to focus on details or general scenes to set the background of events. The funeral of pope Adrian VI in the basilica of St. Peter’s which for a large part still lacked a roof, is shown in true detail.

Adrian’s burial at St. Peter’s was followed by a translatio of his body in 1533 to the church of Santa Maria dell’Anima in Rome. By the way, this church started its life as a hospice for pilgrims founded in 1350 by Jan Peters, a rich baker from Dordrecht. The German project REQUIEM on the tombs and monuments of opes and cardinals in Rome between 1500 and 1800 has an extended entry on this monument. At his tomb in St. Peter’s the inscription said Adrian had considered his duty to reign as the most unhappy part of his life. The inscription on his large-scale monument within the Santa Maria dell’Anima reads in translation: “O how much does the time matter in which the virtue of even the best man happens”. These words seem to have inspired the title of the latest biography of pope Adrian VI by Michiel Verweij, Adrianus VI (1459-1523) : de tragische paus uit de Nederlanden (Utrecht 2011). At Deutsche Inschriften Online you will find the book by Eberhard J. Nikitsch on the inscriptions of this church, Die Inschriften der “Deutschen Nationalkirche” Santa Maria dell’Anima, I: Vom Mittelalter bis 1559 (Rome 2012). The essays in the exhibition catalogue De paus uit de Lage Landen Adrianus VI, 1459-1523 (Louvain 2009) help to put Adrian’s life into perspective.

Jan van Scorel came back to the Low Countries imbued with Renaissance ideas which he promptly used in his paintings. The great German art historian Max Friedländer once said Van Scorel had a role for Dutch painting in the sixteenth century similar to that of Peter Paul Rubens for Flemish painting in the next century. In particular his group portraits were an important innovation. In 1528 Van Scorel got a canonry at St. Mary’s in Utrecht, thus giving him a part of the financial background which had helped Adriaen Boeyens during his long ecclesiastical career. Last year I wrote a post about the project Medieval Memoria Online. Jan van Scorel is connected to several memorial objects. A part of the floor slab of his grave from the collegiate church of St. Mary’s  is now kept at the Museum Het Catharijneconvent in Utrecht (MeMo no. 3006). His group portraits of members of the Jerusalem confraternities in Haarlem and Utrecht are also described in the MeMo database (MeMo nos. 669, 671, 672, 716 and 746).

History, historians and images

Let’s close this post with a number of questions: can historians still create stories mainly using words? Is it not necessary nowadays to be at least very much aware of the imagery created by visual media? The creators of blogs are familiar with these questions and try to provide their own answers. Especially when a story does not unfold itself in the standard way movies and televisions series like to show them it is important to be aware of the (visual) expectations of your public. If people ask you for telling images, they are absolutely right to ask this from you! It will be your duty to come with reliable images or to tell what illusions, allusions and deviations images might contain. Professional pictorial research is most certainly one of the historian’s duties. You will need both your imagination and sound knowledge, helped by historical images, to create images in the mind of your readers which help both you and them to get to the core of historical events and persons. Misgivings about historical inaccuracies that occur in the choice or the use of images should not be the final aim of any criticism, but an outright challenge to produce yourself history which benefits substantially from the proper use of images and imagery.

- Jan van Scorel, Sede Vacante 1523 – exhibition Utrecht, Centraal Museum, October 19, 2013 – January 19, 2014
- Jan van Scorel, Sede Vacante 1523, drawings by Paul Teng, scenario by Jan Paul Schutten, colours Dina Kathelyn Tourneur (Eindhoven: Lecturis, 2013; 80 p.; ISBN 978-94-6226020-7)

The telling image: searching for portraits of lawyers

Sometimes a post on this blog is part of a series. Some posts discuss a particular theme from a number of perspectives. Legal iconography is one of these recurring themes. Sometimes I can choose at will from my list of interesting subjects, but this time a post on a well-known blog prompted me to start writing about legal portraits. On my website I deal with legal portraits to some extent on the page for digital image collections. I realized that in order to tackle a question in that recent post concerning the erased name of a lawyer in an engraving, my list of image databases with legal portraits might be helpful indeed to find out whose portrait you are looking at, and in finding legal portraits at all.

A missing name

At In Custodia Legis, the blog of the law librarians of the Library of Congress, Nathan Dorn published on October 19, 2012, a post called The Faces of Renaissance Law. Dorn wrote about the recent acquisition by the Library of Congress Law Library of two rare sixteenth-century Italian books with images of medieval and Renaissance lawyers, Illustrium Virorum Iureconsultor[um] imagines (…), by Marco Mantova Benavides (1489-1582), printed by Bolognino Zaltieri (Venice, 1570), and Imagines quarundam principium, et illustrium virorum (Venice: Bolognino Zaltieri and Niccolo Valegio, 1569). Five of the six lawyers in the pictures from these books shown in Dorn’s post can be identified immediately by the text engraved below in the images, but in the sixth image a part of this text with the name of a lawyer has been erased. The remaining text, “floruit Roberti regis Sicilie temporibus quem patrem legum uocat Ancharanus” says he lived in the times of king Robert of Sicily who Ancharanus called his father of laws. Pietro d’Ancarano (around 1330-1416) seems to be referring to Robert’s support of the University of Naples.

It is one thing to find a portrait of lawyers in the past, but another thing to identify somebody correctly as in this case. On my website I mention a number of portrait databases and websites of museums with a large portrait gallery, but here the question was clearly a bit different. How to find a digital version of this book when the Library of Congress states this book is very rare? This assertion was easily to be proved, with one qualification: one can find other editions of this book, but they contain different images. Mike Widener, curator of rare books at the Lilian Goldman Law Library (Yale University, has created a Flickr gallery of the images in the edition Rome 1566 of this book. He gives Antoine Lafréry as the author of this book, not Benavides, who was the collector of the 26 images in the first edition. Widener discusses these portraits and other portraits in a number of posts for the Rare Books Blog of Yale Law Library. In the edition of 1566 our lawyer has not been portrayed.

Riccardo Malumbra

Image of Riccardo Malumbra from “Illustrium ivreconsultorum imagines” – copy Wolfenbüttel, Herzog-August-Bibliothek, 37.4 Geom. 2° (28) – from http://www.virtuelles-kupferstichkabinett.de

Instead of plodding along all roads and byways I took to find the missing name I had rather tell you where and how to find a solution for the question about the book at the Library of Congress. One of the portrait databases presented on my website contains indeed all images from later editions. The Virtuelles Kupferstichkabinett (The Virtual Engravings Cabinet), a project of the Herzog-August-Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, the Herzog-Anton-Ulrich-Museum at Braunschweig and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, gives lots of information on the image in question. The man portrayed is Riccardo Malombra, born in Cremona between 1259 and 1264. He died in 1334. For information on him one can turn to the article written by Andrea Labardi in 2007 for the Dizionario Bibliografico Italiano which can be consulted online, too. The missing text in the book at Washington, D.C. is “Ricardus Malumbra Cremonensis”. The date of the edition at Wolfenbüttel is given as between 1567 and 1570, and when you compare it with the copy at Washington, D.C., you can spot indeed some differences, for example the number of the engraving given here in the corner below right.

Finding legal portraits

With more than 4,000 images the Legal Portraits Online collection of Harvard Law Library certainly is an important and often exclusively mentioned resource, but it is surely possible and useful to look elsewhere, too. To start with Mike Widener, he has also digitized for Flickr 36 portraits from the book by Lodovico Vedriani, Dottori Modonesi (..) (Modena 1665) with professors from the university of Modena, a number of portraits showing Hugo Grotius, and finally a few dozen scattered portraits of lawyers.

A first indication that it is indeed interesting to look not only at the image results of the average online search machine, is the very fact of finding Italian images in a German library. In fact a number of German projects seem to cater for a lot of questions which transcend national borders. The Frankesche Stiftungen at Halle an der Saale, an institution with a rich history in eighteenth-century German pietism, has a fine portrait database where you can find lawyers among the professions indicated (enter “Jurist” in the Berufe field). The Fotoarchiv at Marburg has created a Digitaler Porträtindex where you can search in the same way for portraits in the collections of eight German cultural institutions. The Bildindex der Kunst und Architektur, the main image project at Marburg, too, can be used in this way. When doing my search for the name in this particular image I was surprised to find that the Deutsche Fotothek, a project at Dresden, does not only contain photographs, but also drawings, engravings and paintings. My surprise was even greater, because this database brought me at first to the image of Riccardo Malumbra discussed here. Thus the database of the Deutsche Fotothek leads you to images and data also present at the Virtuelles Kupferstichkabinett. However, at the website of that project you can use also Iconclass, a Dutch systematic classification of subjects in art. Last year the death of Friedrich Carl von Savigny in 1861 was commemorated in particular with the publication of a volume with fifty contemporary portraits of this German legal scholar.

This post started with a question concerning an Italian lawyer. It is always possible to find Italian portraits using the general gateways to art history. Nowadays Art.Historicum.net is one of the most useful portals for art history. Combined with the overview of online database of ArtGuide (Heidelberg and Dresden) and the fine list of links maintained by the RKD (see below) you will surely find many portraits. However, it is really worthwhile to check the 10,000 portraits in the FACIES database of the Biblioteca Comunale dell’Archiginnasio in Bologna. Even when you got to acknowledge the relatively small number of lawyers in it, this database does connect them to other resources as well.

Speaking of Dutch projects, the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD) at the Hague has a number of online databases. Among them is RKD Portraits. Here, too, you can search for particular professions. Lawyers can be tracked down by using in the first general search field the Dutch term jurist. Utrecht University has coupled its online database of historic professors with the fine painting gallery in its holdings, and provides links to other databases as well. The image database of the former Dutch Institute for Legal Iconography with some 12,000 images, which used to be accessible only for subscribers at this link of the Dutch Royal Library, has been recently integrated at The Memory of The Netherlands portal. The University of Amsterdam has created a digital portrait gallery with paintings collected for this university and its forerunner since 1743. The Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam has a digital image collection with some 1,500 images for the history of Protestantism, including many portraits.

For American history, too, one can look beyond Harvard’s Legal Portraits Online. The Smithsonian Institution at Washington, D.C., has an online database for its National Portrait Gallery. Incidentally, for English history one should of course turn to its namesake in London with over 160,000 images. The New York Public Library has created Historic and Public Figures: A General Portrait File to the 1920′s with some 30,000 photographs. Cornell University has an online collection of political Americana which goes even a step further, from an image database to the uses of images in campaigning and publicity. For American women in legal professions the information – including images – at the Women’s Legal History portal of Stanford University is invaluable. Libraries and Archives Canada provide for Canada an image portal with a generous selection from Canadian holdings.

Looking for Dutch lawyers

When you want to find a portrait of Hugo Grotius you will easily find useful results. When preparing this post I realized that the proof of the pudding for the image databases mentioned here is to find a portrait of a less well-known lawyer. For convenience’s sake and for my own interest I started looking for an image of a portrait of Nicolaas Everaerts (latinized Nicolaus Everardi) (around 1462-1532). No contemporary portraits of him exist. Because of the variant spellings of his name (e.g. Everhardi, or his first name as Nicolaes) finding images of this lawyer who became the head of the Great Council at Malines, the highest court of the Habsburgian Low Countries, is not so easy.

Nicolaus Everardi - Antonius Miraeus

Nicolaus Everardi (1462-1532) – from Antonius Miraeus (1573-1640); engraving by Philip Galle, 1604

Nicolaus Everardi

Nicolaus Everardi – Harvard Law School Library, Legal Portraits Online

Harvard’s Legal Portraits Online comes here into its own with two images. I have never seen the image at the left elsewhere. To be honest, its execution is a bit clumsy, and the older engraving was clearly the model for it, although inverted. Its dimensions are quite small (57 x 43 mm), and the original source is not given. The older image is not as easily found as I suspected it would be. The Europeana portal helped me in getting more details, but some questions remain. In which work did Aubertus Miraeus (1573-1640) use the engraving by Philip Galle (1537-1612)? The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has almost all these details on this engraving. The engraving comes from Miraeus’ Illustrium Galliae Belgicae scriptorum icones et elogia (Antverpiae 1604), a series of 52 portraits of Dutch and Belgian authors. Again, it is from the perspective of art history that you will find here an answer.

When I created my webpage with links concerning digital image collections and legal iconography I often doubted the value of the links belonging to the realm of art history, but I have become convinced that you might need them indeed. A search strategy for legal portraits can be sketched at least in outline: start with the resources dedicated to legal portraits, continue with general portrait galleries and general photo galleries, and switch to resources for art history when the other ways bring no results. On my webpage I point also to digital heritage portals and to other specific resources for images which relate to the vast fields of legal history. National image portals are also often helpful, as are the websites of institutions in the field of women’s history. In my experience it is sound advice to look also at the image collections of major museums – here the Rijksmuseum – and to take the searching order indicated here as a guideline only. By changing the sequence of links to be visited you might in specific cases get quicker and more relevant results. Sometimes results come from unexpected corners: for example, the Château de Versailles has a fine collection of portrait engravings in its image database. I wish you good hunting!

A postscript

Germany takes quite some space here already, but it is possible to add some online German portrait databases. The Tripota – Trierer Porträtdatenbank (Universität Trier) contains more than 8,000 portrait images, mainly from the collections of the Stadtbibliothek Trier. The links section of this website gives an excellent overview of digital portrait collections worldwide. In the Regensburger Porträtgalerie (Universität Regensburg) you will find some 5,000 portraits from the collections of the princes of Thurn und Taxis. The European aristocracy is well represented here.

Utrecht University contributes to the new website Academische Collecties a catalogue with some 1,800 images – paintings, drawings and photographs – of professors. At the same website you will find some 500 portraits from the collections of the Universiteit van Amsterdam.

Switched off?

Did you make your list of good intentions for 2011? I surely had one particular intention for my blog, to follow a much-needed list of subjects I want to write about. In January I succeeded not only in creating a number of these posts, but to my own surprise other subjects, objects and themes came to my attention. These days bring us many events and developments, and it seemed strange none of these would eventually influence me. The past and the present do touch each other. It was a matter of time before even I would find space here to present some of the connections between them. Let’s not longer write about serendipity, particular circumstances or alertness, but just present a few things that seem to stand in a particular constellation.

On January 23, 2011 the Dutch newspaper Trouw published an article about the opening of an exhibition at Teylers Museum in Haarlem around their copy of the famous Description de l’Égypte (23 volumes, Paris 1809-1829). Teylers Museum is the oldest public museum of The Netherlands. It will show this encyclopedic work on Egypt’s ancient history until May 8, 2011. In the same newspaper I read about the decision of the Al-Azhar University to freeze contacts with the Vatican. The Egyptian government decided this week to cut off the internet in order to stop growing resistance against it. Which online sources within Egypt about Egypt’s reality now and in the past can still be used? As a visitor of many digital libraries my thoughts went to the Digital Assets Repository, the digital library of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria. Can we reach it or not? Luckily this digital library and the library’s website still function. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina has not only created a special website for the digitized version of the Description de l’Égypte, but also a website called Memory of Modern Egypt. Unlike the other websites, however, the user interface is only in Arabic. I could not reach a third website, Eternal Egypt, on objects from Egypt’s long history. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina has got its own Internet Archive, but storage of Eternal Egypt goes only back to 2007, and worse, it could not be reached when writing this post.

The Description de l’Égypte is a monument to the efforts of French scholars from the Napoleonic era. One of its drawbacks is obviously that hieroglyphs had not yet been fully deciphered at the time of the expedition in Egypt and during the years of publication. In 1822 Champollion succeeded in breaking the secrets of this script when he succeeded in reading the trilingual inscriptions on the Stone of Rosetta. Too late for the first edition, and not yet included in the second 36-volume edition (Paris 1820-1830), and thus no wonder law is scarcely touched upon in this imposing work. By the way, the book title Description de l’Égypte had already been used in 1735 by Jean Baptiste le Mascrier. His book can be seen at the Gallica digital library.

Back to legal history! Some types of sources from Egypt containing information on Egyptian, Greek and Roman law can safely be consulted online. Papyrology, the study of papyri, is not only an auxiliary discipline for historians, but a discipline which brings much for the field of ancient law. It is really remarkable how papyrologists have taken large steps for digital initiatives which enable scholars – and thanks to a growing number of accompanying translations also others – to take good notice of texts preserved partially or only by papyri. Gregg Schwendner and his indispensable blog What’s New in Papyrology help you to stay informed about this field and its scholars. The number of interesting papyrological websites is substantial and I had better not present them all in just one blog post, so I will restrict myself firmly to a few examples. Almost every website has a generous links selection.

The Papyrological Navigator (New York University) is perhaps the most sophisticated search site available now bringing together information on papyri from other databases as well. The Trismegistos portal (Leuven and Cologne) has probably the most assets and the widest range, for it aims at presenting papyri and inscriptions from Egypt and the Nile Valley between 800 BC and 800. You can find here texts, collections, archives, downloads, special fonts for your computer and a bibliography. The texts section of Trismegistos brings you to other databases covering the field of papyrology such as the Heidelberger Gesamtverzeichnis der griechischen Papyrusurkunden Ägyptens (HGV) and the database with Coptic documentary texts (BCD) at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Probably the most famous collection of papyri are the Oxyrhynchus Papyri at Oxford. The Giessener Papyri- und Ostrakadatenbank brings you also Greek ostraka. Giessen has even a digital library for publications about their papyri. Apart from texts –  in connection with the Perseus Digital Library at Tufts University –  you can also find photographs of papyri in American holdings using the Advanced Papyrological Information System of Columbia University. I cannot leave out Leiden and its papyrological institute and show at least its links collection.

Those who think studying the ancient history of Egypt is harmless or disconnected from the present should surf to the website about the history of medieval Nubia. This site aims at bringing together many resources. It has been the target of several internet attacks during the last week of this month. I found this site in a link collection for the classic period of papyri. There are also papyri with Arabic texts. The university of Zürich, host to the International Society for Arabic Papyrology, has started a project for an online Arabic Papyrology School.

The university of Heidelberg is working on the digitization of old Egyptological literature, including the Description de l’Égypte. Therefore even if the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and its digital library would be cut off from the web, you can still look online at the mighty volumes of this enterprise. The Dutch newspaper presenting the exhibition in Haarlem headed the article with the words ‘Battle lost, knowledge gained’ (Slag verloren, kennis gewonnen). Switching off the internet is a battle lost.

Imagining a lictor

At the end of last week’s post featuring Lady Justice’s square I wrote about a bas-relief by Jeanot Bürgi showing a Roman lictor as his reaction to the invitation to make a sculpture portraying a law faculty, but I did not include a picture of it. Today I made a photo of this bas-relief along the Nieuwegracht in Utrecht. The medieval canals in Utrecht are very typical. Unlike canals in cities as Amsterdam, Leiden and Delft they have werven, quays on each side. Only the Kromme Nieuwegracht and Plompetorengracht have a more usual form, but there, too, the street with cellars under the pavement is high above the water level.

A lictor in his role of executioner

A lictor in his role of executioner - sculpture by Jeanot Bürgi

My photo does not present the sculpture in its very new, almost white form as on the photograph in Reliëfs in blauw, but thirty years later, tested by time and rain. I had to take this picture from the other side of the canal standing on the wharf, not more closely from a bridge like the picture in the other post. Even now you can see a lot. Bürgi has clearly chosen a rather grim aspect of early Roman law. As an executioner the lictor does not look very likeable when his axe comes down on the neck of the criminal. The public is represented by a series of wide opened yelling mouths. The fasces are also an element of the fence around the old Court of Justice. The immediate vicinity of this court probably worked as a suggestion for the sculptor. You can see these sculptures only when you walk fairly attentive along the old canals of Utrecht. For some images of justice you certainly have to search carefully, and these sculptures below street level offer an example in its own class.

Lady Justice’s square

In an earlier post on legal iconography I expressed the view that past images of justice do influence our imagination of justice. Reflecting again on this subject made it clear to me that there is no harm presenting modern images of justice on my legal history blog. When preparing this post I became more and more aware that I want to restrict myself here to sculptures, but buildings and even open space matter as well. Although I focus on modern sculptures in Utrecht you will also see pictures of buildings.

Buildings and objects in Utrecht have been the objects of earlier posts here. It seemed feasible to expand the series of photos I already presented with new ones. What triggered me to fulfill this wish was a very simple fact. The modern Court of Justice in Utrecht has its main entrance at the Vrouwe Justitiaplein, “Lady Justice’s Square”.

Lady Justice

A scuplture of Justice

 

At the entrance of the modern Court of Justice is a bronze sculpture of Justice created by Elselien van der Graaf in 2000. Before you want to judge this representation of justice as rather traditional I would like to look at a second sculpture at the same square.

Between good and evil - sculpture

Between Good and Evil, the Justice Column

Between Good and Evil, the Justice Column is the title of this sculpture in reinforced concrete by Nicholas Pope placed in 2000. This column looks rather like a leg with a large foot. At the top the words Vrowue Justitia is inscribed in yellow letters. The full text becomes only visible when you look at all sides of this sculpture. At Rechtspraak, the Dutch central website for jurisdiction, you can find more information about these objects and other art objects in and around the building. I should note that in Dutch court rooms you will find copies of a very modern styled painting of the Dutch queen, and this, too, adds to the image of justice.

This post is to some extent a kind of round-up. The legal world and legal systems are not only made visible in images of justice, but also in buildings and the actual forms of justice, law and legal imagination and representation. At the corner of the Lange Nieuwstraat and the Hamburgerstraat in Utrecht is the old court of justice with the entrance shown in the banner of my blog. It came to my attention that the angel like figure is not an allegory of justice. The sculptor Joannes Rijnboutt completed in 1838 a design by city architect and draughtsman Christiaan Kramm aiming to represent The Genius of Legislation.

The Dutch blazon at the former kantongerecht

The Dutch blazon at the entrance of the former kantongerecht

In a corner of this square is also an early 20th century building which has housed the kantongerecht, the lower court in the Dutch judicial system. With the faces of the lions turned threateningly to possible visitors the sculpture with the Dutch blazon and the motto Je maintiendrai (I will maintain) is more pregnant than usual versions.

The old back entrance of the court or justice

At the back of the old court of justice on the premises of the Benedictine Saint Paul’s Abbey you can still see a seventeenth century entrance along the Nieuwegracht in typical Dutch Renaissance fashion. Apart from the blazon of the province of Utrecht this gate could have been present in any Dutch city.

A sculpture of righteousness

A lantern console with a sculpture representing righteousness

The column at Lady Justice’s square was rather large. The sculpture below street level at the Kromme Nieuwegracht at a lantern console is really small, perhaps some forty by thirty centimeters. More than 300 lanterns along the medieval canals of Utrecht have been enriched since 1953 with such sculptures as Rechtvaardigheid (Righteousness) by Jeanot Bürgi. Two children fight over an object, and the woman raises her left hand to stop their fight. When discussing justice, you cannot leave out righteousness and equity. I had to search for this particular sculpture created around 1980, because my copy of the first edition of Reliëfs in blauw (Relief in blue) by A. Graafhuis and C.A. Baart de la Faille (Utrecht-Antwerpen 1974) obviously does not mention it.

Willem Molengraaff

Willem Molengraaff (1858-1931), law professor at Utrecht University

During my round-up I spotted even more interesting consoles. Graafhuis and Baart de la Faille show at the Nieuwegracht 3 a console by Bürgi representing the law faculty with an image of a Roman lictor, but this example will have to do. For your consolation, and because I think it fits into this post, I will end here with a sculpture showing one of Utrecht’s law professors. This bas-relief designed by Jeroen Hermkens and made by Amiran Djanashvili was placed in 2004 outside the Institute for Private Law. Since 1958 this institute is named the Molengraaff Instituut in honor of Willem Molengraaff (1858-1931). The text placed below this sculpture mentions for instance his work for the Dutch bankruptcy law of 1893. Molengraaff worked not only in the field of commercial law, in particular maritime law, but he advocated also international law and pleaded very early for extensive interpretation of the concept of unlawful action.

Some of Molengraaff’s famous early articles have been digitized for the Igitur Archief, the digital repository of Utrecht University Library, and four of his books are present in the digitized special collections of the same library. Studies on and works by Molengraaff can be easily found using library catalogues. The online Bibliography for Dutch History does not mention the essay on Molengraaff by Ter Horst and Korthals Altes in the volume Rechtsgeleerd Utrecht, edited by three legal historians, the late Govaert van den Bergh, Job Spruit and Marijke van de Vrugt (Zuphen-Linschoten 1986).

Law, land and art

Law and the humanities, a subject likely to show up on my blog. However, this post has not as its first objective praising seminars on Law and Humanities, nor is it my goal to push anybody to start reading Martha Nussbaum’s Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, though this is certainly a good idea. I hesitated myself when art came into my view for a post on legal history, but in fact a work of art was already a central element of my latest post.

This time I want to write about art objects with legal power. Kings and emperors had their sceptres, often beautifully crafted, and now often on display in museums around the world. However, the art objects to be discussed here empower people. They express their claim to lands that in times beyond written memory belonged to them.

The Aboriginal Art Museum Utrecht

The Aboriginal Art Museum Utrecht at the Oudegracht

In 2001 the Aboriginal Art Museum Utrecht (AAMU) was founded, the only museum in Europe which specializes in works of aboriginal art. Apart from its own collection the AAMU houses an art gallery. The AAMU held in 2005 an exhibition titled Law and Land. Art of the Spinifex People, which until then had been on tour through Australia. The Spinifex People who live in the Great Victoria Desert in Western Australia decided in the nineties of the last century to put forward a land claim. To support it they created in 1998 two Native Title Paintings, interestingly one by men and one by women. In 2001 the Western Australian Government accepted under the Spinifex Land Agreement the claim of the Spinifex People as decided by the Federal Court of Australia (FCA 1717; November 28, 2000).

Exhibition catalogue "Law and Land"

A fragment of The Women's Native Title Painting

The area of land to which the Spinifex Land Agreement applies covers 55,000 square kilometers, almost twice the size of The Netherlands. The concept behind the native title paintings is well-known thanks to Bruce Chatwin’s novel The Songlines (1987), a masterful evocation of the Australian landscape, Aboriginal culture and its struggle to survive in modern Australia. The Aboriginal people described in songs kept secret to outsiders in sometimes minute detail the landscape of their country. Perhaps one should think of the title paintings more as evocations than of straightforward representations of geographical elements. The Spinifex Native Title Paintings lead in 2001 to the start of the Spinifex Foundation which promotes the arts.

The Spinifex people had to leave the northern part of their land in the fifties because of British nuclear testing. This made it difficult for them to show continuous habitation following normal procedures for land claims. The 2000 agreement does not apply to the natural resources found in the region during the twentieth century, and thus for instance the rights of mining companies are not touched by it.

The Spinifex Native Title Paintings form a landmark in Australia’s legal history equal to the first admission of aboriginal documents in 1963, the Yirkalla bark petitions. In the late eighteenth century the view came into existence that Australia was terra nullius, land belonging to nobody, and this doctrine held sway for over two centuries. Only in 1992 the Mabo Case put an end to this doctrine (HCA 23; 175 CRL 1 (June 3, 1992)) in which verdict the concept of native title was recognized.

Much more can be said about the rights of the Aboriginal people and other indigenous Australian people. When I added some Australian addresses to my link collection of digital libraries it dawned upon me that some Australian things just happen to be in Utrecht, near at hand. The AAMU is worth a visit, although I could not help remembering immediately Chatwin’s description of Australian artists because of the presence of an art gallery. While musing about Chatwin’s view it would do more justice to say that people can be as versatile as the Australian Spinifex plant (Triodia pungens) which can be used in several ways. In order to survive in a desert, and more specific in the Nullarbor region, you simply have to be able to cope with different situations in different ways. Making traditional culture and land survive can call for unorthodox methods. Using art as an argument in law calls for fresh thinking, and this post is only meant as a glimpse of more. Anyway, today I liked to think about the desert on a particular rainy and stormy day.