Friday, May 29, 2009

Image Interpretation: The Answer

Thanks so much to everyone who weighed in with comments on the last post.** Many people wanted the "answer," so I thought I'd post it here.

So, the first image is from a c. 13 MS of an illuminated copy of Justinian's Digest, depicting a manumission of a slave (rootlesscosmo got this, but cheated by actually reading the text -- pfftt!). People were certainly correct about the status difference between the two women, but had the relationship a bit backwards. I think the left two figures are a married couple. The right-hand figure is a judge, rather than a king -- Squadrato, good call on the ermine-trimmed robes, but they are also linked with particularly high-ranking justices, it seems. Either that, or the illuminator thinks that they should be.

The second image depicts a mother and her child coming before... who? Squadrato says a king, because of the crown and sword (both symbols of royal or at least high-ranking administrative authority), but the description I have describes the authority figure as a judge. Personally, I agree with Squadrato's assessment. On the other hand, this is from another Justinianic MS, so perhaps the illuminator just threw in whatever symbols of authority he could think of.

As for which is "best," I think the comments by Susan and GoodEnoughWoman are right on target: it depends on the type of interchange I'm trying to depict here. Is justice top-down, or is there the possibility of input from both sides?

In any case, I've also dug up a couple of other illustrations, but these are more colorful. I'm still not sure what I'm going to go with. But your comments have really helped me sort out how I feel about them. So thanks!

**Previous post poofed to avoid copyright issues.

1 comment:

Janice said...

Late to add my two cents but I would say that the faces in the first image are so compelling, they seem to beg a story or interpretation whereas the other illumination's expressions are rather more stock and staid. So I'd be intrigued much more by the first than by the second!