No blindfold on Lady Justice? – November 14, 2009

On seeing photos from my admission, a friend Paul asked why the statue of Themis outside the Supreme Court in Brisbane has no blindfold. His question prompted me to do a little digging.

The Greek goddess Themis became one of the Oracles of Delphi on account of her ability to foresee the future. That led also to her being recognised as the goddess of divine justice. Themis is often depicted without a blindfolded because, capable of clear-sightedness and prophecy, she had no need to be blinded.

Justitia, Roman goddess of justice, is often depicted holding a sword and scales, but not always. And interestingly, she has been represented as “blind” only from about the end of the fifteenth century.

Themis at Law Courts, Brisbane
Themis at Law Courts, Brisbane

The Lady (of) Justice in the Western tradition sometimes wears a blindfold (perhaps more so in Europe, with the Roman influence on the development of many countries?) but more often she appears without one. She usually carries a sword and scales. The Lady is draped in flowing robes, is mature but not old, and is less frequently referred to as Themis. She symbolizes the fair and equal administration of the law, without corruption, avarice, prejudice, or favour.

The statue that appears outside the Law Courts complex in Brisbane is Themis. The Hon Paul de Jersey AC, Chief Justice of Queensland, gave a speech to the Brisbane Club (2001) titled “Themis and her Themes.” It is an easy read.