Further Reading

Justice as a Sign of the Law: Justice and Peace

September 24, 2011

Dumont, Jean. Corps universel diplomatique du droit des gens (8 vols.; Amsterdam: P. Brunel [etc.], 1726-31), vol 1. Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Jean Dumont’s Corps universel diplomatique du droit des gens (The Universal Diplomacy of the Laws of Men) is a compilation of European treaties beginning in the time of Charlemagne in the tenth century. The engraved frontispiece, entitled “Traitez de Paix” (Peace Treaties), is by Bernard Picart (1673-1733), who was considered a “magnificent engraver.” In the background, the Virtues Justice and Peace (both clear-eyed half-naked women) embrace. They are seated on a pedestal and surrounded by other Virtues, all labeled and including Fortitude, Wisdom, Natural Law, and Truth.

The French text below the engraving explains that the two male figures at the center are kings “swearing an alliance” that is confirmed through a handshake above a chalice-shaped urn in which a fire burns. Each of the men bears a palm, symbolizing peace, and ministers and counselors surround each. At the bottom, War is enchaining Ambition, Discord, Fraud, and Impiety. At the top of the frame, the eye of Providence looks down from thundering clouds from which harpies emerge.

The picture of two persons clasping hands over a fire occurs often in diplomatic imagery of this era and signifies “bona fides” (good faith) or “pacta sunt servanda” (promises must be kept). The depiction’s iconic weight resulted in variations being used in seventeenth-century wedding poems, with husband and wife clasping hands to symbolize their union.

A simplified version of the Picart image made its way into the logo of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, established in 1907 at the Hague. A facsimile of the logo used by the Court until 2007 shows the artistic borrowing.

“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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