LAW AND POWER IN SIXTEENTH CENTURY PORTUGAL: ANALYSIS OF A PAINTING BY FRANCISCO HENRIQUES
Through an iconographical method of art analysis, this article on the piece “A Casta Susana e o Profeta Daniel” will discuss the choices made by both its author, the painter Francisco Henriques, and his patron, King Manuel I, in order to unravel the true symbolic meaning behind the artwork. The ties between law, art, and power are complex and often unexpectedly deep, and in this sixteenth century panel, I believe to have found an interesting example of how art can be subtly manipulated to serve political interests, by shaping the way justice is socially perceived through the use of exempla iustitiae, “examples of justice”. In particular, this analysis will address the way an absolutist monarch can make use of religious imagery as an instrument for judicial legitimisation, via the appropriation of a popular biblical narrative, slightly altered to fit an intended narrative.
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