The Nomos of Images. Manifestation and Iconology of Law
Images, objects and signs unlock specific cultural and social dimensions of legal action and actively shape them. Legal systems, in fact, rely on artifacts to decode and translate written norms as visual representations. Or they appropriate them to constitute the scope and function of law on the visual plane. Such juridical manifestations defy the disciplinary boundaries of Art History and Visual Culture in how they relate to form, content and style as well as tradition. Notwithstanding the vast inventory of discrete analyses of legal iconography, no systematic approach exists that accounts for the relevance of legal practice and norm. Comprehensive parameters in the context of the history of law must yet be fashioned to extend the analysis of the forms, functions, and meanings of these numerous artifacts, that underlie the legitimation of law and of legal actions.
Dedicated to the study of such manifestations the Minerva Research Project is concerned with formulating an analytical framework for an iconology of law. Taking a transcultural and diachronic perspective, it explores specific dimensions of legal history that bear a relation to materiality. The conceptual difference between the Greek nómos ( νόμος) and the Roman lex already offers the foundational framework: Nómos more so than lex connotes both the written and the unwritten law, and includes customs, manners and habits, or, for that matter, even order. The idea, thereby, is to analyze objects, images, and symbols commonly ascribed to the legal domain, albeit beyond their customary function of visually representing law, in the realm of nómos: as substitutes and witnesses, as doctrine in a materialized form.
The focus of the research project is not confined to a single historical epoch or a specific cultural sphere. Rather, it seeks to bring within its purview the European civil law as well as the codification and materialization of juridical norms. Taking as its point of departure the mobility of images, signs and objects and their application in and adaptation to different cultural and social contexts, the research project aspires to a transcultural comparative analysis of the link between image, or artifact, and legal acts.