Saturday, July 2, 2016

What Can Art Teach Law?

Can art impart insights that inform law—and impart them in telling ways? In a very creative article, On Portraying Human Dignity (here), Christopher McCrudden focuses on a painting that I have always found magnificent and haunting: Las Meninas by Velasquez .

Image result for las meninas


The author discuss the various individuals to explore differing ideas of what “dignity” means to each of them. What does his analysis have to do with law?

On this reading, what Las Meninas provides, ultimately, is an experience which encourages us to ‘share the ethical framework’ of other people, as Anil Gomes suggests great art may do. In doing so, it seems a near perfect medium for better understanding the current dilemmas and debates over dignity; for in experiencing the painting we are pointed to the importance of what

Murdoch called ‘unselfing’, ‘the capacity to go beyond the personal prejudices arising from

my own ego’. It inculcates a capacity for standing in another person’s shoes, a capacity that

is at the core of reflexivity, the ‘perception of other as individual’ It is not unique in doing

this, but it is nevertheless important, particularly when words that provide the language for

expressing that perception begin to lose their power to move us, as threatens to be the case

with ‘dignity’.

As our community begins a thoughtful discussion on the use of visuals in law, Las Meninas takes us to a new level.


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I agree. I've loved this painting since I first saw it in the Prado in 1971. It's is a haunting psychological portrait of the human condition.

Posted by: Scott Fruehwald | Jul 2, 2016 3:56:23 PM

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