Saturday, June 2, 2012

Iconic Figures: Justice

This sculpture of Justice or Lady Justice has been commissioned for the Williamsburg-James City County Courthouse

Looking up something legal I came across a pic of Justice.  This started me wondering on her origin and history,

Here are some interesting snippets. . . .

The statue of Justice depicts a blindfolded female with a set of balances/scales in one hand and a double sided sword in the other. 

Commonly referred to simply as Justice, she is also sometimes referred to as Lady Justice and the Goddess of Justice.

The modern depiction stems from the Roman goddess of Justice, Justitia, and the Greek equivalent Dike.

Long before Justitia and Dike the Egyptian goddess Maat represented truth, balance, order, law, morality and justice.  Maat also regulated the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation.  The Greek goddess Themis also preceded Dike, her daughter, as the embodiment of divine order, law, and custom, in her aspect as the personification of the divine rightness of law.  Themis was often depicted as holding scales.  She did not have a blindfold in that she was believed able to see the future (and was one of the Oracles of Delphi), which led to her becoming the goddess of justice. 

Themis, outside the Supreme Court of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia 

It is Justitia and Dike who represent the modern iconography of scales and sword,

The scales are symbolic of the measuring of the strengths and weaknesses of the case before the court, the double edged sword symbolising the power of Reason and Justice, which may be wielded either for or against any party. 

The blindfold was added in the 15th century to depictions of lLdy Justice.  The blindfold represents objectivity, in that justice is or should be meted out objectively, without fear or favour, regardless of identity, money, power, or weakness.

The earliest Roman coins depicted Justitia with the sword in one hand and the scale in the other, but with her eyes uncovered.

The first known representation of blind Justice is  Hansd Gieng’s 1543 statue on the Fountain of Justice in Berne:

 Some sculptures still leave out the blindfold, as is the case with the statue on top of the London Central Criminal Court, aka The Old Bailey:

The courthouse brochures explain that there is no blindfold because Lady Justice was originally not blindfolded, and because her “maidenly form” is supposed to guarantee her impartiality which renders the blindfold redundant.

Another variation is to depict a blindfolded Lady Justice as a human scale, weighing competing claims in each hand. An example of this can be seen at the Shelby County Courthouse in Memphis Tennessee:

From Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, A Voyage to Lilliput:

And these people thought it a prodigious defect of policy among us, when I told them that our laws were enforced only by penalties, without any mention of reward.  It is upon this account that the image of Justice, in their courts of judicature, is formed with six eyes, two before, as many behind, and on each side one, to signify circumspection; with a bag of gold open in her right hand, and a sword sheathed in her left, to show she is more disposed to reward than to punish.

The following image, known as Liberty Kiss, has been adopted as a symbol of Liberty and Justice by the Gay Rights movement:

In 2004 noted London street artist and activist Banksy unveiled a sculpture with his own take on Justice.  His sculpture, cast in bronze, weighing 3.5 tonnes and nearly 7 metres high, was a copy of the statue atop The Old Bailey but with some notable changes:  the figure wears a hitched up skirt revealing a garter with a dollar bill, thigh high PVC boots and a thong: 

The plinth on which it stood bore the words “Trust no-one”.

Banksy’s comment on his depiction of Justice as a prostitute was "It's the most honest depiction of British justice currently on display in the capital, I hope it stays there for good.  We are learning that the people we trust with our liberty cannot be trusted." 

Banksy’s hope was not realised.  Two days after unveiling, the local council used a crane to remove it, citing that it could make unsafe the toilets below the square where the statue was located.  Banksy undertook to reimburse the costs of removing it.

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