More about the iconography of Lady Justice in Literature & Art

“The press of the Spoon River Clarion was wrecked,

  And I was tarred and feathered,

  For publishing this on the day the

  Anarchists were hanged in Chicago:

  “l saw a beautiful woman with bandaged eyes

  Standing on the steps of a marble temple.

  Great multitudes passed in front of her,

  Lifting their faces to her imploringly.

  In her left hand she held a sword.

  She was brandishing the sword,

  Sometimes striking a child, again a laborer,

  Again a slinking woman, again a lunatic.

  In her right hand she held a scale;

  Into the scale pieces of gold were tossed

  By those who dodged the strokes of the sword.

  A man in a black gown read from a manuscript:

  “She is no respecter of persons.”

  Then a youth wearing a red cap

  Leaped to her side and snatched away the bandage.

  And lo, the lashes had been eaten away

  From the oozy eye-lids;

  The eye-balls were seared with a milky mucus;

  The madness of a dying soul

  Was written on her face–

  But the multitude saw why she wore the bandage.”

This is a very famous peace of poetry on Lady Justice. Do you know the author of this text and the title of the work? Let’s post here quotations and images about Lady Justice! If you can’t post images, just send them to the address:

20 thoughts on “More about the iconography of Lady Justice in Literature & Art


    It’s Edgar Lee Masters ad this is an extract of Spoon River anthology,one of my favourite books. He wrote this specific poem about Carl Hamblin, probably a fictional character, editor of the “Spoon River Clarion’ journal. When Lee Masters writes “anarchist were hanged in Chicago” he refers to the “Hay Market Square Riot” in Chicago,during which some anarchists were accused of the murder of policeman and even if there weren’t evidences which would have proved that they were actually guilty, they were hanged anyway. Justice is represented as a woman which can strike whoever she wants with her sword,she is pictured with her eyeballs seared with milky mucus,she seems weak and even mad. Probably he wants to show how justice was injust and corrupted during that time.
    I would like to share a poem I know about Lady Justice by Langston Hughes

    “That Justice is a blind goddess
    Is a thing to which we black are wise:
    Her bandage hides two festering sores
    That once perhaps were eyes.”


  2. diana martellini says:

    i found a bunch of very intresting images of lady justice on the internet:

    this one is The Justice of Raffaello

    this is the floaming lady by Oscar Niemeyer in Brasilia

    this is the lady with two-edged sword from the canadian supreme court in ottawa.


  3. Martina Diglio says:

    There is an Album by Metallica, released in 1988, that is called “…And Justice for all”. The front cover represent a cracked statue of a blindfold Lady Justice, bound by ropes, with a breast exposed and her scales overflowing with dollar banknotes. The design was created by Stephen Gorman, under suggestion of the singer Hetfield and the drummer Ulrich. The picture is connected in particular to the song after which the album has been named. The third verse of the song is, in fact, dedicated to Lady Justice:
    “Lady justice has been raped
    Truth assassin
    Rolls of red tape seal your lips
    Now you’re done in
    Their money tips her scales again
    Make your deal
    Just what is truth? I cannot tell
    Cannot feel”
    The song is all about the fact that today there is no more space for justice, because the judicial system is so corrupted that only money counts. There is no space for the truth, while the purpose of a fair process should be to ascertain the facts, to establish the truth. The purpose of the scales should be to give everyone what they deserve, on the basis of facts. Now, according to the text of the song, is no more like that: the scales are there only to weigh money, and the rich people outweigh the poor people.
    It is also very interesting the live performance of the song, in which a huge Lady Justice appears on the stage, wrapped up by an enormous snake, and at the end of the song, starts trembling and finally crashes on the stage ( sometimes on the crowd).
    Here you can find the cover:……And_Justice_for_All_(album)%3B300%3B300

    and here the live performance:


  4. Federica Rossi says:

    An interesting analysis on the topic we’ ve been discussing in these days related to the iconography of Lady Justice is given by Alessandro Prosperi in his book “Giustizia bendata.Percorsi storici di un immagine”. In this work the origins of the representations of the iconic figure of Lady Justice are retraced by an historical and artistic overview about the symbols and the features which characterise this emblematic personification.
    One of the eldest immages of a judgement is included in the Book of the Deads, in which the egyptian goddes Ma’at, who embodied truth and justice, weights with a scale deceased people in order to consider if they deserve to access the afterlife. Ma’at was often represented by an ostrich feather, the hieroglyphic sign for her name.
    In the middle age the embodiment of justice is increased with the representation of the sword, which can be referred to the iconography of Archangel Michele, while Vergin Mary stands for the defence of accused or convicted people and because of this reason justice was frequently represented with the appearance of Mary or more in general a woman.
    The blind fold detail was added afterwards around the fifteenth century, as we were told by Stefan Huygebaertin during today and yesterday classes and at that time it hadn’t a positive meaning. In those images Lady Justice was usually blindfolded by jesters: this scene reminded of the passion of Jesus, in which he was mocked and blindfolded, that embodied the innocent’s trial most famous of all times.
    This idea of this Justice’s natural blindness succeded in the past centuries until nowadays, in which is conceived more as a positive value identified with neutrality, even if a sort of ambiguity still remains.


  5. Federica Rossi says:

    I’m enclosing an immage called “La pazzia dei giudici ciechi”, appended to the “Constitutio penalis Bambergensis”, which depicts a line up of judjes blindfolded and dressed as jesters


  6. Federica Rossi says:

    We can also see a current use of the personification of Lady Justice in Megadeth’s song “Bite The Hand” in order to describe the corruption of modern times, in the following verse:

    They ball-gagged Lady Justice
    And blindfolded her so she can’t see
    The erosion of the people’s trust
    Of what will come to be an FDIC Assisted Suicide


  7. Beatrice Giordano says:

    The Lady Justice has always been represented as a blind woman holding a sword in a hand and a scale in the other hand since the ancient Greece era. She was included in the circle of divinities and was embodied by Themis; she was also enumerated in the Roman mythology but with the name of Dike. Last week, we talked about the Supreme Court building which has a sculpture of the “Justice between force and the law” represented by a sword in the right hand (the force) and some papers in the left hand (the laws). The statue of Lady Justice can be found also in the USA Supreme Court,in the Palais Bourboun (that we saw during the class) and even in Japan,where the statue is called Themis like the Greek Goddess.


  8. Federica Celli says:

    Surfing on web I’ve found this picture,

    it’s called “Death of the Justice”. It’s a digital picture and I don’t know who is the author but it reminds me this quotation of Martin Luther King:
    “Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing Justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.”
    If the Justice die, there’s no place for social progress and if there’s no progress there won’t be a society anymore.
    This concept reminds me of what we talked about this week in particular the corrupted Justice, represented as a prostitute by Bansky, which underlines the obscure aspect of the bad use of Justice.
    With a corrupted Justice inevitably we have also a corrupted society and so if the law and order don’t act as the tools of Justice, they becomes the tools of the society destruction.


  9. Jakob Zarari says:

    I want to post the statue of justitia in the entrance hall of the Austrian Supreme Court in Vienna. Compared to most of the images and statues we have seen in this week, she is sitting. But the most special thing you can see, is that she has no scales but a book in her hand! I think that this reperesents very well the positivistic approach to law, that we have in Austria, because for a positivistic lawyer the most important thing is the written law (=the book) and not justice (=scales). The term justice in the sense of just does not exist in a postivistic system.
    I perosnally do not like this statue, because of its postivstic attiude, which is according to me not right.


  10. Mattia Palatta says:

    There are many different representations of Lady justice also in satire, where she is even more influenced by the social feelings and common values. An example of this could be found in the first picture, where the goddess is portrayed with her traditional attributes (the scales and being blindfolded), but this last detail is the cause of the unhappiness of the people who surround her. Because of her blindness, in fact, she can’t provide the solutions to the many problems people are asking a solution to, and, as a final consequence, this makes the goddess herself unpowered in order to achieve her own task. But there is also an image (the second one) which clearly represents the conception of justice born from the Enlightenment ideals, especially thanks to the Beccaria’s writings. In this image the Lady (always portrayed with her traditional attributes) makes transpiring a new perspective of justice: there is a strong refuse of the violence (represented by the sword held under her foot) and, in general, of the traditional role of the executions in making justice, in order to create a justice less violent and “more human-friendly”. Even the latin quotation besides her expresses this conception. But there is also a particular emphasis of the concept of equality and fairness represented by the scales (not casually held in the hand of the goddess very high).

    P.s. The last image is referred to the concept of “decisive moment” taken from Cartier-Bresson. In fact this drawing represents an hellenistic bronze statue, which went lost, named “Kairòs”, whose maker is still unclear, but the most part of the doctrine attributes it to Lysippos. It’s meaning is really peculiar because it represents the perfect moment. According to this, this statue was really peculiar also for its attributes: in fact the young naked boy (who was intended to represent the god Kairòs) is in a particular position (on balance on a sphere) and contemporary holds in the right hand a razor (to remind that time is sharper than everything); but for sure the most peculiar thing of this statue is the hair, which are present only on the frontal part of the boy’s head and not on the back one, because the aim of the sculpture was to remind not only the fact that perfect moment is an unstable and very fleeting thing, but also that if a man wants to catch it properly, he must be always aware of it, because when it will be gone, there will be no other chance to catch him or even to chase for and grab him (because, as I said, he has no hair on the back of his head and so it’s impossible to be caught). In my opinion it represents perfectly the concept expressed by Cartier-Bresson.


  11. Sarah Penge says:

    This is one of the best songs I ever listened to by Bon Jovi about Justice. One of the most significant sentence of the song is:

    “Hey mister can you help me
    I’m a loner on the run
    I’m just looking for tomorrow
    And I ain’t gonna hurt no one”

    Which means “I’m loner without Justice, I’m looking for a good society and with it I will never hurt no one”

    Here is the song!


  12. Emanuele Ballabene says:

    A particular image of Justice is given us by tarot:Lady Justice is the card number eight.
    This isn’t a chance choice:this number is made by two circles, representing the perfection in the sky and on the ground. Lady Justice sits on a throne, like a queen, but she isn’t blindfolded:she wants to see us,to understand what we do in our life to express a right judgment. This feature fixes the difference from the traditional images. Lady Justice has the scale and the sword, both necessary elements:the scale estimates the weight of the actions, the sword, if is right, punishes.


  13. Anthony J. Cacciotti says:

    Searching some interesting pictures of Lady Justice to post, I’ve found a 2006 article on the popular magazine Rolling Stone, that strongly criticizes the then US Congress, considered by the author the “worst congress ever”. To better explain the level of inadequacy, many caricatures of democratic symbols are shown on the cover of the magazine, including Lady Justice, who’s typically represented with her blindfold, but here she’s actually trying to peek through it, giving a sense of ambiguity about the criminal system and of incompetence and incapacity of the then members of the Congress.


  14. Elena Francis says:

    Looking for images of justice, especially the personification of justice, i found a very interesting representation in the statue inside the courtyard of the Tribunal of Milan. It is curious how this representation of Lady Justice is lacking of two of the typical attributes of justice: the scale and the blindfold. Infact, if we observe the statue we can note that Lady Justice has the sword in one hand, the attribute which represents punishment and the strength of Justice. It seems that in the other hand She is holding a parchment that contains laws. Maybe the sculptor, Attilio Selva (1888-1970), wanted to underline the strength and the impotrance of respecting law, but there is no representation of balance and equality in this image, because there isn’t the scale and, furthermore, because Justice is not blinded, so she is not impartial.

    If we analyse the image we can see that behind the sculpture on the facade of the building there is an image of a eagle, a very impotrant symbol referred often to the judge or the magistrature in general.

    Another interesting representation of Justice i found is a painting of Giulio Romano, the famous architect and painter of the Rinasciment, In this picture Justice is flancked by an ostrich. This animal was used in a lot of pictures about justice not to remind to the fact that the ostrich put his head under the ground, but to the fact that is well-known that the ostrich can digest everything. Here there si no blindfold, no sword but only the scale.

    The painter Jacobello del Fiore, mainly active in Venice, represented in one of his painting Justice, with all his attribute exept the blindfold. There are also two lions standing on each side of the throne. Probably we can connect these lions the lions symbols of Venice.

    Also the painter Luca Giordano (1634-1705) used the image of the ostrich in a paint which represent the figure of the Justice. In this picture there are alot of elements. One, which i think is mort important is the crown of laurel, the symbol of victory. The artist painted precisely the action of crowning of Justice, action carried out by an angel (it seems).

    Sometimes we can find also paintings where the Justice is represented as a divinity, Astrea or Dike, the Greek goddes. Astrea, the daughter of Zeus and Themis, was the calestial virgin, goddes of purity and innocence, who diffused the feelings of justice and goodness. She abbandoned the Earth disgusted by the actions of men, but the legend tells that one day she would have been returned. Platone predented Dike as a virgin, because Justice should be uncorrupted.
    The figure of Astrea was used in many literature works, for example by Ludovico Ariosto in his “Orlando Furioso”, where it is said that the Emperor Carlo V, unifying the cristian kingdoms, would have permitted the return of the goddes of Justice on the Erth. The poet vincenzo Monti used the figure of Astrea for his opera “Il ritorno di Astrea”. Monti wrote this poem in honour of the Emperor Francesco of Austria in 1816 and it is interesting to see how the author uses the figure of Justice, Astrea, to create an opera in favour of the kingdom. Astrea , with his words expresses his disgust for men: She says “il guardo gira per ogni dove e mira tutta iniqua la Terra. Afflitto il giusto , tripudiante il malvagio. Ornato il vizio d’ ogni bel nome , e l’ onestà tenuta stravagante follia.” After She says “Primo carattere divino della Giustizia è il compatir. Ma tutto cade il mio regno, ove dell’ armi impera il terribile dritto.” Infact Astrea is in contrast with Marte (Ares), the god of war. In the end they reconcile and everybody prise the Emperor Francesco. The last part of the poem gives us the image of the austrian throne where the Emperor is flancked by Astrea and Minerva under a bright light, and also by Mercurio and Mars.

    In this picture we can see that Justice has wings, like a goddess, and also an helmet, which in my opinion gives more power to the image, because seems that she is dressing a real armour, like a warrior.

    I’m posting without pictures for now, because i had problems in adding images.


  15. Charles says:

    Just last Thursday a new tv show by Netflix and Marvel came out: Dardevil. Which is basically a story about a vigilante. This thus imply: a failed justice, distorted interpretation of the law, a corrupt coercive power (which means a biased and unnefective enforcement of the law).
    In the oppening (see the link above) justice, as it has been presented in the pasts lectures: blind folded, with the swords and the scales, is the first animated image offered to our visions. Blood tainted, as the rest of the city, we can clearly see this never ending blood trickling down her face and body, separating her from all clarity and sharpness, two mains features and attributes of justice when represented. The arm which is holding the sword his as cut off from the rest of the body, enlightning this justice as cut off from her ability to deliver sanctions and punishments. With neither of her feet (she has no legs) on the ground, she seems like an abstraction, unable to impact reality. But,still proud, her chin and head upward, she seems to still have pretentions, making her appears like a mere ruined ornament, powerless.
    Neither there is a divine or social justice in this world as we can see that an angel sculpture, holding her head between her hands in despair (, this kind of lamenting sculpture his often used as an allegory of despair in front of an irredeemably situation. Léon Bourgeois used it to express social issues of 19th century french society.

    At the end the heroe appears a a countrepoint of this fail lady justice, sharp and clear, showing us his back, anonymous. he is red dressed yet no blood is trickling from him.


  16. diana martellini says:

    when i saw dardevil i thought the same thing! love the intro and the reference to lady justice. i think that it might be even a connection with the blindness of the protagonist and the blindness of lady justice, who is in a certanin way a personification of the justice


  17. Ada Maria Corrado says:

    ABC’s “How To Get Away With Murder” is about a group of dedicated law students and their menthor and professor Annalise Keating. In an attempt to sparkle competition it is decided that the best student of them all will win a token prize, a golden statue of Lady Justice.
    To keep it short (I don’t want to spoil the show!) this very statue will later be used as a murder weapon.
    It’s emblemathic how the symbol of justice assumes an ambivalent role that raises questions that are repeatedly referred to throughout the show: is justice a monolithic ideal or is it malleable and adaptable to different circumstances? Are justice and crime different faces of the same coin? Is justice itself corrupted beyond redemption?


  18. lawadminhumanities says:

    Dear all,
    here some thoughts by Stefan Huygebaert on your comments: you are doing a great job indeed!

    I read a lot of different and fascinating thoughts here. The blindfold-as-bandage topos reminds us, just like the Bambergenis image, of the ambiguity of blind justice. The Rolling Stone cover has something of the iconoclasm we saw at the end of the first part: Congress’ Lady Justice is shown with an anomaly – “something’s rotten in Congress”, very much like the cartoon of the shadow of Pomeroy’s justice on the Houses of Parliament in 2014. Likewise, the kind of disbelieve in Justice as expressed by Metallica uses the same iconoclasm. Jacobello del Fiore’s Venice is a nice case too. It has been noted by authors such as David Rosand that the personification of Venice and Justice merged into one (cf. the tondo with Venecia on the Ducal Palace), and therefore, “Venice is Justice”, comparable to how several city states identified with Justice by means of Justitia frescoes, columns and fountains. The lions in her seat as painted by Jacobello del Fiore might refer to the Venetian symbol, but also to Solomon’s throne. Perhaps, the rule of emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria was compared to the “golden age” in which Astrea – and thus justice – was present. Vigilante super heroes have started to receive attention by legal scholars such as Luis Gómez Romero and Thomas Giddens, and a special issue on Law and comics of the journal Law Text Culture was published in 2012. The suicide Justice is a fascinating image, and I like the link with MLK’s quote, which emphasises the difference between law and justice. As such, their personifications should differ too (cf. the Vienna statue). Thanks a lot for these insights, enjoy the rest of the L&H program.


  19. Fabia Palazzi says:

    This is the cover of the n. 232 of a very famous comic book called “Dylan Dog” . Showing this picture I’d like to underline the importance of comics in order to transmit , through their pictures , ideas, concepts ad messages to different kind of readers ; infact comics are usually read by children, adults and even elders but, of course, they will have different impressions and will give different interpretations to the story after the reading.
    In this story we have a ghost, which looks like a woman, that is seen walking through the corridors of Scotland Yard, the main police office in Lodon; during those days in the same building, a corrupted lawyer , a pusher (who was there because of his arrest) and another corrupted employee die in mysterious circumnstances. Dylan Dog , a detective who investigates on paranormal situations, has to solve the case trying to understand how and why those people have died and the connection between those deaths and the mysterious ghost. In the end Dylan Dog discovers that the ghost that walks inside Scotland Yard (the place that is supposed to be the best one for law to be respected) is Lady Justice and he realizes that she has killed those people because of their corruption, their unfair and criminal behavior; Dylan has a dialogue with Lady Justice, in which he explains her that violence and homicide are not the right weapons in the fight against injustice.
    The picture of the cover shows different things: as we can see the statue of Lady Justice (located inside Scotland Yard) is blindfold, she’s holding a sword in her right hand and a balance in her left hand; the statue is broken and we understand that it fell on a corrupted man while he was fighting against Dylan; the man is dead because of the heavy weight of the statue… everything is happening in front of an astonished Dylan Dog; In my opinion this image wants to show the message beside the entire story: it’s true that , in this image, Lady Justice kills a man who is corrupted but, as we see in the picture, the statue is broken… JUSTICE IS BROKEN! Even the virtuous hero of the story, Dylan, doesn’t seem o be really happy about that… violence is not the right punishment ad there’s no justice in death… The fact that Lady Justice kills this man to punish him is not a victory for her in the fight against injustice and corruption ; infact she’s not sitting on a throne , she doesn’t seem victorious … on the contrary , she’s laying on the floor, broken, in blood.


  20. Emanuele Ballabene says:…0…

    This is the image by tarot!


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