Mark S. Weiner

The Only Post about Medieval Law that Ends with a Video from Beck

In Aesthetics, narrative, form, Books and libraries, Europe, Spain, Uncategorized on August 23, 2013 at 7:17 pm

From the Vidal MayorOne of the most powerful aspects of the Vidal Mayor—the subject of my previous three posts—is how it portrays people engaged in everyday legal activities and disputes. The illuminated manuscript shows the law in action, and it depicts law as a human creation.

In this respect, the images in the Getty’s manuscript remind me a bit of the judicial bobbleheads I discussed in my first video.

But there’s something even deeper going on, because the figures are also meant to embody principles of jurisprudence. They are meant both to represent and to set in motion a way of thinking about law.

In a fine academic article about the subject, one scholar describes the significance of the images this way:

The functioning of [their] representative mode can be grasped when perceived in the context of the larger meaning attributed to the category of the imago in the Middle Ages: not only as a symbolic material product—miniatures or metaphors—but equally as a mental image, an imaginary mental operation, in this case the juridical enunciation of a case. Through this structure, the Vidal Mayor’s images adopt the formula of juridical casuistry. Not only do they reproduce the casuistic methodology by giving yet another juridical example for each fuero, but also the image itself reproduces the casuistic procedure undertaken by the judge as he is shown stating a particular case in his court. Through reproducing the methods of jurisprudence, the images of this manuscript on customary law, make up, in this manner, the core of juridical complexities. Their visual movement originates in the court, moves through the particular case stated, and then takes us back to the court where the fuero is being applied—thus to the text.

Like this scholar, I’m struck most powerfully by how the images of the Vidal Mayor depict legal ideas through human gestures—especially hands.

And so, without saying more, I’ll include some of those hands here—and let the images do the talking … partly because the hands are so evocative of legal and social relationships, but also just because they’re beautiful. For medieval atmosphere, I recommend playing this soundtrack in the background (it’s from roughly the same time and place).

Small Blank Space
From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

More Hands 12

More Hands 16

More Hands 14

More Hands 15

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

More Hands 24

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

From the Vidal Mayor

Extraordinary.

They also bring to mind a characteristically unsettling video by Beck that arranges the relation between law, hands, and art in a radical, postmodern way. I’ll close here with that video—and with a heads-up that I’m likely to be offline for a couple of weeks. See you again soon.

  1. Thanks for the post Mark. I guess we seem to have forgotten most of the meaning attached to these hand gestures. Maybe only the oath gesture, the hand shake at contract, and the stop sign of policemen as ‘legal gestures’ remain? (These come first to my mind. ;))
    Thanks for Beck also, here in his most powerful period. Haven’t heard from him for some years …
    Wibo

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: