National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Justice Barthélemy Prieur (sculptor)
French, 1540 - 1611
Justice, 1610
overall with base: 181.5 x 64.3 x 49.2 cm (71 7/16 x 25 5/16 x 19 3/8 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
On View
From the Tour: Marble Sculpture from France
Object 1 of 8

Holding a sword and olive branch, this figure represents Justice. It was commissioned to decorate a monument in which the hearts of French king Henry IV and his queen, Marie de'Medici, were entombed at the Jesuit College of La Flèche.

Though the project was never completed, a drawing for it indicates that this figure, placed on the right corner, would have gazed in the direction of the king and queen, whose statues were planned for the center. This is the only figure from the monument known today and may have been finished later by another artist. That would explain the differences between this work and others by Prieur, which tend, for example, to have more voluminous drapery than Justice's form-fitting doublet. Her idealized features, smooth surfaces, and dignified, still pose are all characteristic of the classicizing taste in French sculpture during the early 1600s.

While the sword that the figure holds is a common attribute of Justice, the olive branch is more often associated with Peace. Their combination here may suggest that France, after decades of bloody religious wars between Protestant Hugenots and Catholics, wished to see peace as an aspect of justice.

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