From Allegory to Commodity: Graphic Lady Justice and Twenty-first Century Law

By Susan H. Stephan.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

I plan to examine the representation of the feminine Justice in art over time, discussing her apparent changing role and its cultural significance in the “age of images.” I will focus on the graphic comic art of Neil Gaiman’s Lady JusticeTM, as drawn by Dan Brereton.
Themis, the Greek Goddess of Justice and Law and Justicia, the Roman adaptation of Themis, have been the likely inspirations for the representation of Justice as a female form in art in the West for centuries; in the East a similar form based on Ma’ai from Egyptian culture dates as far back as 2,000 years. Often referred to as “Lady Justice,” this symbol is ubiquitous in art through the early 20th Century and more widely throughout current popular culture and its various media.
Many courtrooms, public and private spaces across the globe still host an image of Lady Justice in the form of a painting, fresco, statue or sculpture. She is a variation on an age-old theme, but usually comes with a set of scales, a large sword and a blindfold. In addition to these representations, Lady Justice in 2010 can also be found as rock band “album” art, in hundreds of clip art images, in comic books, as tattoo body art and in miniature form in gift catalogs. And she’s all over the Internet. Meanwhile every legally themed novel, television show, film, song and joke conveys its own image of justice through popular culture.
While the basic concepts of justice are very much the same today as they were in the fourteenth century, there is a potential impact of new and pervasive media on the justice system. My paper and discussion will address the possible societal effects of the artistic and new media images of Lady Justice.

Keywords: Art Society Justice, Lady Justice Art, Media Image Justice, Graphic Comic Justice, Lady Justice, Art Justice, Law Popular Culture

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp.287-294. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 589.915KB).

Susan H. Stephan

New York University, New York, NY, USA

Susan H. Stephan is a candidate for a Master of Arts degree in the Draper Interdisciplinary Program in Humanities and Social Thought at New York University in New York. She also works as an attorney and shareholder with the BenePartum Law Group, P.A., and she teaches as adjunct faculty at Hamline University School of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota.


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