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Ruth Herz

Legal practitioners rarely seem aware of the presence of visual art in their everyday professional dealings. They resort to the word and the letter of the law as their sole source of knowledge and reference. However, the image of the blindfolded Justitia, holding the scales and a sword, is deeply rooted in our Western culture, representing fair and unbiased justice. It is indeed an image that has long performed an important symbolic role, legitimising justice and State power. A chance discovery of a large collection of drawings and paintings of courtroom scenes, secretly produced by a judge while sitting on the bench in France from 1929 to 1969, gave me an unprecedented insight into how a judge perceives his profession and the institution of justice as a whole. Another example is the artwork of Werner Gephart, a German legal scholar and sociologist, through which he projects his ideas as well as criticisms of justice. The recourse to art as an innovative alternative method of challenging the traditional legal way of thinking is increasingly gaining ground.