Enfilade

Exhibition | The Art of Law: Three Centuries of Justice Depicted

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on December 4, 2016

Now on view in Brugge:

The Art of Law: Three Centuries of Justice Depicted
De kunst van het recht: Drie eeuwen gerechtigheid in beeld
Groeningemuseum, Brugge, 28 October 2016 — 5 February 2017

Curated by Vanessa Paumen

image-1In the fifteenth century, it was customary to decorate courtrooms with works of art that were intended to ‘encourage’ the aldermen and judges to perform their duties in an honest and conscientious manner. These works often depicted the supreme moment of divine justice: the Last Judgement. But other scenes from the Bible were also used, as were images from more profane sources. Together, these are known as the exempla iustitiae (‘examples of fair justice’). In 1498, Gerard David was commissioned by the city council of Bruges to paint just such a work: The Judgement of Cambyses. This remarkably gruesome painting once hung in the courtroom of Bruges town hall and is now one of the finest masterpieces in the Groeningemuseum.

Subjects relating to justice were also depicted outside the courtroom in paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture and stained glass windows. The Art of Law exhibition has brought together some twenty works of art from the collections of Musea Brugge, supplemented by about hundred other pieces on loan from galleries and museums both at home and abroad. They paint a fascinating picture of the way in which justice and the law were represented in art during the Ancien Régime.

Vanessa Paumen works at the Groeningemuseum in Bruges as the coordinator of the Flemish Research Center for the Arts in the Burgundian Netherlands. She earned a BA degree, cum laude and an MA degree in Art History, with a focus on European Art at the University of Texas in Austin. In her master’s thesis, “Judged, Beheaded, Burned: Dieric Bouts, The Justice of Emperor Otto III within the Context of Fifteenth-Century Punitive Practices,” she looked at how justice paintings functioned in fifteenth-century Flemish society.

Vanessa Paumen, et al., The Art of Law: Three Centuries of Justice Depicted (Tielt: Lannoo Publishers, 2016), 208 pages, ISBN: 978 9401440417, £30.

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