Justice (La Justicia)

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Justice (La Justicia)
Justice was considered the main cardinal Virtue during the Renaissance, since it was needed for the proper operation of the other three: Fortitude, Prudence and Temperance. The origin of this thinking lies with Plato, who highlighted it as responsible for regulating the behaviour of the citizens in order to achieve social harmony. It was represented as a woman with a sword and scales (symbols of power and impartiality respectively). From the 16th century on, it also appears blindfolded in order to enhance level-headedness, although in former periods being blindfolded was an allegory of lack of judgment, typical of Fortune or Cupid.

The sword and the scales

The image of Justice presides over the panel, with a sword and scales, and no blindfold on her eyes. She is surrounded by scenes displaying divine justice, such as the one on the top part showing Noah next to his ark, the only ‘just man’ to the eyes of God, who will survive the Deluge.

Solomon, the prototype of Justice

However, the main scene takes place at the feet of Justice, in the foreground. It represents the judgment of Solomon, the paradigm of a wise ruler. The king had asked God for "a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong". He proved his wisdom when two women fought for a baby; both had been mothers and just one child had survived. The king , crowned and carrying a staff, in the dispute between both women to be the mother of the newly born, rules for the child to be cut in two, which the soldier on the right is about to do, pulling out his sword. The dead baby separates this group from the women's, where the false mother of the living baby is about to hand him so that the ruling of the king can be effected, ‘Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!’, while the one who knows him to be her son resolves with great pain that he better be given to the other one, so he can be spared. (1 Kings 3, 9-27). By observing the behaviour of the women, Solomon found out who the real mother was, and the whole people of Israel "held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice".


A banner in the top part reads IUSTITIA ES PERPETVA VOLVNTAS IVS SVVM VNICVIQVE TRIBVENS (Justice is the permanent will to give each one his own)

Series The Seven Virtues

Model based on Michiel Coxcie

Manufacture Brussels. Manufacture by Frans Geubels, c. 1560-1570

Fabric Silk and wool

Size 330 x 450 cm

Location Cathedral of Burgos

Origin A bequest to the cathedral in 1599 by Bishop Cristóbal Vela de Acuña

On Display St James's chapel (museum)


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