The Art of Law in Bruges

The Groeninge Museum in Bruges is currently hosting a major exhibition on art and the court system. Works of art played a role in reminding everybody involved in the legal process of the unpleasant fate that could befall you if you yielded to the temptations of corruption. The Art of Law also brings together works that were hung in courtrooms as an encouragement but sometimes also a warning to judges to dispense justice that was fair.

Exhibits include Frans Floris's ‘The Judgement of Solomon’ depicting the biblical story of the wise Solomon, who when two women were fighting for the same baby ordered the child to be cut in two to discover who the true mother was. The true mother would rather give up the child to another woman than have it cut in two.

Another popular theme was the Judgement of Zaleucus. Here in a version by Hans Vredeman de Vries. The Greek king was famous for his harsh laws. Adultery was punished by the removal of both eyes. When Zaleucus's son was caught as an adulterer Zaleucus was placed in a quandary. Assistant curator Tine Van Poucke explains: “He decided that his heir would only have one eye removed. He himself would lose the other eye. The message is clear: the law must be applied impartially, but at the same time it is open to interpretation.”

The Art of Law runs at the Groeninge Museum in Bruges until 5 February 2017. The exhibition is curated by Tine Van Poucke and Vanessa Paumen with the assistance of legal historians Georges Martyn and Stefan Huygebaert.