Images of justice in Northern Italy, 1250-1400
Couch, Clare Sandford
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This thesis considers some of the ways in which images of justice were used to express and in some cases promote certain aims and aspirations of those who commissioned them, in northern Italy between c.1250-1400, and whether and to what extent this impacted upon their depiction. It explores the question of a sacred/secular distinction in relation to the use and depiction of images of justice, and proposes that certain changes in such images can be read as responses to developments in the law and in the secular justice system. An introduction defines the essential elements of the subject and the main objectives of the thesis. As the thesis takes a social historical perspective, the first chapter provides details to establish the historical context for the following case studies. The main body of the thesis adopts a thematic approach. The second chapter examines the interrelationship of divine and secular justice through an analysis of images depicting the Last Judgment, or referencing its imagery. First it looks at several monumental representations of the Last Judgment, addressing developments in the artistic treatment of the torments of Hell in the context of changes in contemporary legal punishment practices. The chapter then explores further the relationship of earthly punishments and divine imageries, in a work not previously studied as an image of justice. The congruence in these artworks of sacred and secular elements allows a discussion of the interrelationship of these terms in relation to the contemporary conception and practices of justice. Further chapters examine how a new and increasing emphasis on the judge in the prosecution procedure from the early thirteenth century is mirrored in the artistic representation of secular and judicial authority after that period. This is first addressed by analysing images of the trials of Christ as examples of ‘secular’ justice in a religious or ‘sacred’ context, and exploring how contemporary issues relating to the administration of justice contribute to an understanding of changes in the iconography of these scenes. A fourth chapter addresses images more overtly associated with secular and judicial authority, offering a new perspective on these images as expressions of contemporary societal interests, many arising from the justice system, leading to their use as exemplars, to guide and inform. The thesis contributes to the debate on the distinction between the terms ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ in the late medieval period, exploring how analysing artworks can lead to a better and more nuanced appreciation of the application of those terms in relation to the contemporary notion of justice. Further, my research has indicated that what could account most comprehensively for certain changes in the use and depiction of such images may be found in specific aspects of a justice system in transition.