Rare Books Blog

September 24, 2011

The first image, known as “The Fool Blindfolding Justice” from Sebastian Brant’s Ship of Fools, comes from the 1497 Basel edition and is sometimes attributed to Albrecht Dürer. The 1509 London edition offers a close copy. The woodcut was one of a hundred illustrations for this popular book, subsequently printed in many languages.

The scene is one of the earliest known to show a Justice with covered eyes. The deployment is derisive, evident not only from the fool but from the chapter that the illustration accompanied, which was entitled “Quarreling and Going to Court.” Brant, a noted lawyer and law professor, prefaced the book with a warning against “folly, blindness, error, and stupidity of all stations and kinds of men.” The 1572 version is all the more insistently negative; in this rendition, the fool has pushed Justice off her throne as he covers her eyes.

Brant, Sebastian. Stultifera navis (Basel: Johann Bergmann, de Olpe, 1497). Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Brant, Sebastian. This present boke named the shyp of folys of the worlde (London: Richard Pynson, 1509). Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Brant, Sebastian. Stultifera navis mortalium (Basel: Sebastian Henricpetri, 1572). Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

 

“The Remarkable Run of a Political Icon: Justice as a Sign of the Law” is curated by Judith Resnik, Dennis Curtis, Allison Tait, and Mike Widener, and is on display Sept. 19-Dec. 16, 2011, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

 

September 24, 2011

“The Fool Blindfolding Justice” was not the only image of that era deploying a blindfold as a warning against judicial error, as can be seen from the 1508 and 1580 editions of an illustrated volume, Die Bambergische Halsgerichtsordnung. The volume, setting forth the criminal law and municipal ordinances of the city of Bamberg, included some twenty woodcuts.

In the woodcut called “The Tribunal of Fools,” a presiding judge (marked by his rod of office, the collar of his robe, and his place of honor on the throne) sits with his four colleagues. All are blindfolded and wear jesters’ caps. The legend on the scroll above their heads reads: “Out of bad habit these blind fools spend their lives passing judgments contrary to what is right.” Once again blindness is equated with error. Blindfolds could also be found on other readily recognized Renaissance icons – Synagoga, representing the Old Testament, was bent and blindfolded (blind to the “light” of Christianity), while Ecclesia, standing ramrod straight and clear-eyed, embodied the New Testament. Similarly, Fortuna, and Eros were also shown blindfolded, exemplifying that the loss of sight leads one astray.

Bambergische Halssgerichts Ordenung (Metz: Johann Schöffer, 1508). Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Bambergische peinliche Halszgerichtszordnung (Bamberg: Johann Wagner, 1580). Lillian Goldman Law Library.

“The Remarkable Run of a Political Icon: Justice as a Sign of the Law” is curated by Judith Resnik, Dennis Curtis, Allison Tait, and Mike Widener, and is on display Sept. 19-Dec. 16, 2011, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

September 24, 2011

Two codifiers of Renaissance iconography, Cesare Ripa and Andrea Alciati, generated compendia of icons and emblems, replayed by didactic invocations in art and literature, in politics and theology, and in popular pastimes from tarot cards to the satirical press. Through these multiple forms, a host of Virtues and Vices became part of the common visual vocabulary in Europe.

Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia marks the beginning of a shift in the meaning attributed to the blindfold. First published, without any pictures, in Rome in 1593, it was printed with images in 1603 and regularly thereafter, appearing in more than forty editions in eight languages.

Ripa detailed various kinds of Justice, each with her own set of attributes. One was Divine Justice (“Giustitia Divina”) and the other six were variations on “Worldly” Justice. All were clear-sighted but one, and sight itself was specifically admired in the descriptions of various Justices. For example, Ripa’s “Justice According to Aulus Gellius” – from the Padua Ripa of 1625 – is said to have “piercing eyes” and to wear a necklace where “an eye is portrayed” because “Plato said that Justice sees all and that, from ancient times, priests were called seers of all things.” “Divine Justice” (from the 1698 Amsterdam edition), was similarly clear-sighted, with scale, sword, and a dove in a halo above her head to invoke the Holy Spirit.

The sole version Ripa described as blindfolded was called Justice (or sometimes Earthly Justice). As a 1611 edition explained:

This is the type of Justice that is exercised in the Tribunal of judges and secular executors. She is wearing white because judges should be without the stain of personal interest or of any other passion that might pervert Justice, and this is also why her eyes are bandaged – and thus she cannot see anything that might cause her to judge in a manner that is against reason.

Ripa, Cesare. Iconologie (Paris: Mathieu Guillemot, 1644). Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Ripa, Cesare. Iconologie (Amsterdam: Adrian Braakman, 1698). Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Ripa, Cesare. Della novissima iconologia (Padua: Tozzi, 1625). Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

“The Remarkable Run of a Political Icon: Justice as a Sign of the Law” is curated by Judith Resnik, Dennis Curtis, Allison Tait, and Mike Widener, and is on display Sept. 19-Dec. 16, 2011, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

 

September 24, 2011

Alciati, Andrea. Opera omnia (4 vols.; Basel: Thomas Guarinus, 1582), vol. 4. Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Where might Ripa have gotten the blindfold? One possible source is Andrea Alciati, a professor of law. His friend Erasmus called Alciati a “shining light of Learning, not only the Law.” Alciati’s 1531 treatise, Emblemata, an anthology of moralizing epigrams to which his publisher added illustrations, was reproduced in some 150 editions. One of the “emblems” (a term he coined) is titled “The good Prince in his Council.” The central figure is wearing a bandage obscuring part or all of his eyes, and his colleagues lack hands. The accompanying epigram reads:

These men without hands who are seated are those by whom justice is administered. They should have well-balanced sense; nothing is received from them in response to a bribe. Their prince, deprived of his sight, cannot see anybody, and he judges by due sentence according to what is said in his ear.

Both Ripa and Alciati likely knew the “Egyptian” allegory “transmitted by Plutarch and Diodorus Sicilus in which the chief justice was shown eyeless in order to illustrate his impartiality, while his colleagues had no hands with which to take bribes.”

“The Remarkable Run of a Political Icon: Justice as a Sign of the Law” is curated by Judith Resnik, Dennis Curtis, Allison Tait, and Mike Widener, and is on display Sept. 19-Dec. 16, 2011, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

September 24, 2011

A rare and intriguing portrayal of a two-faced Justice, titled “A Portrait of Worldly Justice,” comes from a popular sixteenth-century guide to civil procedure by the Flemish jurist Joost de Damhoudere. One face is sighted and the other has blindfolded eyes. The face of the sighted Justice looks toward her large sword, held upright in her right hand, while the face of the blindfolded Justice turns toward tipped scales in her left hand.

The sighted face has the well-to-do on its side, while the blindfolded face is turned toward the side with more needy-looking individuals, children included. Those on the sighted side of Justice personify largely negative qualities, such as the two labeled Argentum (Money) and Favor (Favor). Blindfolded Justice faces figures labeled Despectus (Contempt), Miseria (Misery), and Paupertas (Poverty). The legend below suggests the children (one of whom is disabled) are Innocentia (Innocence) and Veritas (Truth).

This imagery is accompanied by more than a dozen explanatory pages, beginning with a quote from Cicero: “Justice is the virtue, by which is granted to each what is his own.” Through this mélange of images and text, Damhoudere detailed his views on both divine and human justice. He explained that many turn to Justice, who is “repeatedly blind and deaf” to just causes.” Justice is “two-faced” – acting in a manner that appears even-handed but dissembling. Where she is “bound by a blindfold,” her eyes are shut to “clemency.” But the text has some ambiguity, for Damhoudere also commented that a “two-faced” Justice signified that she must “attend to each of the parties equally.”

Damhoudere, Joost de. Practique iudiciaire et causes civiles (Antwerp: Iean Bellere, 1572). Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Damhoudere, Joost de. Practycke in civile sacken (Rotterdam: Pieter van Waesberghe, 1660). Lillian Goldman Law Library.

“The Remarkable Run of a Political Icon: Justice as a Sign of the Law” is curated by Judith Resnik, Dennis Curtis, Allison Tait, and Mike Widener, and is on display Sept. 19-Dec. 16, 2011, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

September 24, 2011

By the sixteenth century, the blindfold had come to be seen as a potentially positive constraint on earthly Justice, seen to be at risk of corruption or of misplaced passion. But Justices without blindfolds remained commonplace, as seen in the 1669 edition of the Republic of Genoa’s criminal statutes. The engraving is by Giuseppe Maria Testana (d. 1679), a printmaker and engraver whose works included allegorical images and portraits of popes, cardinals, and other public figures.

Genoa (Republic). Criminalium iurium serenissimae reipublicae Genuensis, libri duo (Genoa: Giovanni Battista Tiboldi, 1669). Lillian Goldman Law Library.

“The Remarkable Run of a Political Icon: Justice as a Sign of the Law” is curated by Judith Resnik, Dennis Curtis, Allison Tait, and Mike Widener, and is on display Sept. 19-Dec. 16, 2011, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

September 24, 2011

The engraved title page of Bernard van Zutphen’s Practycke der nederlansche rechten van de daghelijcksche soo civile als criminele (Dutch Law and Practice in Civil and Criminal Matters) depicts a crowded and lively courtroom scene. At the center, the presiding jurist is seated behind a table and beneath a small statue of Justice, who holds scales and a sword; her thin blindfold is dimly visible. The densely populated courtroom, with seats filled by men, includes some spectators focusing on the court proceedings and others chatting – with dogs at their feet.

With minor variations, this same image can be found in several other volumes of that era, all illustrating how seventeenth-century town halls served as public gathering places, and court proceedings were ordinary events.

Zutphen, Bernhard van. Practycke der nederlansche rechten van de daghelijcksche soo civile als criminele questien (Leeuwarden: G. Sijbes, 1655). Lillian Goldman Law Library.

“The Remarkable Run of a Political Icon: Justice as a Sign of the Law” is curated by Judith Resnik, Dennis Curtis, Allison Tait, and Mike Widener, and is on display Sept. 19-Dec. 16, 2011, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

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