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9— The Centrality of Justice (Book V)
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The Sister Justices

The separate visual definitions of each register now lead to consideration of the formal and expressive character of the miniature as a whole. The personal partici-


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pation of the Jean de Sy Master in its execution is another clue to its prominence. The liveliness of his painterly touch is as crucial in creating meanings as Oresme's extensive formulation of the program or the calligraphic and decorative framework produced by the scribe and other members of the atelier. Characteristic of this collaborative enterprise is the use of color as an element unifying borders, text, and miniature (see Pl. 3). As noted above, the "royal" blue mantle of Justice légale associates her with both Mary and the French monarchy, as do her gold crown and star. Two of the four daughter and sister virtues, Fortitude and Mansuétude, stand out in their red robes as essential parts of Justice légale, while the other two, clad in pale pink, serve as foils to the more assertive tones. In the lower register, the color used to represent the central figures reverses from blue to red. More subdued hues prevail in the lower scenes for depiction of minor figures: pale pink verging on white for the parties at law and olive green for bystanders or witnesses. For the two Justices below, the repeated color in their identical costumes reinforces the metaphor of double kinship.

The brilliant red of the twin Justices attract attention to them as symbolic and physical centers of the composition.[54] The mean position here does not contrast with extremes placed on left and right (as it does in Fig. 11). Instead, the two Justices embody separate means or measures of arriving at just or fair actions. The conjunction of their vertical poses with the central triangular breaks of the framing quadrilobes accentuates their symbolic central positions. While Oresme makes the point that the Justices of the lower register act as living embodiments of the law, it is the illuminator who endows them with convincing gestures that make them the psychological centers of the compositions. The inner awareness of Justice distributive is conveyed by her upraised hand and the pronounced turn of her head. Compassion and impartiality are qualities imparted to Justice commutative by her facial expression and hand movements. In contrast to the static and literally supernatural form of Justice légale, these twin Justices are more human in scale and animation.

The sister Justices below also command the dramatic centers of their compositions. Although identified as subtypes of Justice particulière, they also act as judges, whose decisions affect those anxiously awaiting them. The fact that the witnesses and parties "at law" are all masculine apparently repeats traditional gender role segregation: women exert power as spiritual forces but only male protagonists inhabit the public realm. Yet several elements in this miniature, and others of the A cycle, tend to blur this basic distinction. The shared psychological tension of the actors and judges and their physical proximity pictorially fuse the spiritual and worldly realms. Nevertheless, the Justices are slightly elevated above the figures surrounding them, and Justice distributive is separated from the others by the table. But in the lower right scene Justice commutative's hands touch those of the disputants. Most important in negating a distinction between ideal and earthly spheres of action is the highly naturalistic and expressive figure style. Always more comfortable in representing the everyday world (Fig. 33), the Jean de Sy Master creates animated and authoritative female judges. Although the text specifies masculine judges, the iconographic tradition of female personifications of Justice pre-


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vails here. Drawing his inspiration from the world around him, the illuminator envisions women who act in a similarly authoritative manner. Although the widowlike dress of the sister Justices does not reveal social class, the no-nonsense robes and deportment of these figures can connect them with women the Jean de Sy Master may have encountered in business, welfare, or craft transactions. In these and other fields, decision making and distribution of funds were important parts of women's work. Certainly the authoritative visual role of these female Justices represents a significant departure from the male-centered text. If the social and ontological status of the twin Justices remains ambiguous, no doubts arise about their aesthetic and psychological domination of these two scenes. Not for the first time in medieval art does the human and transitory realm appear more compelling both to artist and audience than the conventional and remote world of supramundane existence.


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9— The Centrality of Justice (Book V)
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