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The Nomos of Images. Manifestations of the Law in Picture Atlases and Photo Archives

Index and trace in the Photo Archive

The archeíon (Greek for archive) originally referred to the building where the law-related materials were kept. Photo archives, too, are places of storage that allow us to reconstruct the normativity of the legal system. In forensics, for instance, the indexicality and facticity of photography become parameters of evidence. Collections focusing on legal archaeology, which were established in the first half of the twentieth century, relate the inventory of finds and the recording of the site of the find to the find site and storage location in the archive. In this way a physical and tangible “reality” is stored in the archive, although the aesthetic and fictional dimensions of the images are dealt with differently. The collection of Karl von Amira (1848–1930) aims to provide a phenomenological survey. It consists of drawings, copperplate prints, photographs, etchings and watercolours that are organised in thematic archive folders. In addition to the evident nature of photographs, the skills of the collector creating drawn copies becomes important here. Hans Fehr (1874-1961) likewise projects a “vivid image of the law of the past” in Das Recht im Bilde (1923), including artworks in his study focusing on the medieval and early modern trial and penal system. “First there was the image, then the norm,” serves as his motto in doing this. Karl Frölich (1877-1953) compiled a number of photographs of preserved legal sites from pre- and early history, focusing on manifestations of the regulation of economic life.
These images, signs, and objects of the law were conceived as archaeological “traces“, and evidence for the facticity and „reality“ of legal customs and tradition. Not written texts, but places, materials and objects were conceived as new sources to represent the power and influence of the law. However, during the NS régime the folkloristic mixture of archaeology, legal history and politics became problematic.


Collection of the Photothek of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz. Photograph by Stefano Fancelli

Assemblage of folder no. 5: shrew’s fiddles, stocks, necklace of shame, jougs, stones of shame, masks of shame and branks. Karl von Amira archive, Munich. Photograph by Carolin Behrmann

Whipping post, gravestone, freedom stone, adultery. Illustrations from Hans Fehr, Das Recht im Bilde, 1923, pp. 92–93.

Testimonial evidence, cruentation, compurgation, torture. Illustrations from Hans Fehr, Das Recht im Bilde, 1923, pp. 40–41.

The Gollenstein menhir near Blieskastel. Photograph, c. 1930–50. Karl Frölich Collection, Max Planck Institute of European Legal History, Frankfurt/M., inv. SF=F0000D050701a

Court linden tree in Untergneus (Stadtroda, Thuringia). Photograph, c. 1930–50. Karl Frölich Collection, Max Planck Institute of European Legal History, Frankfurt/M., inv. SF=F0000D009101a

Market measures (brick measures) on the walls of the “Mauthaus” in Nuremberg. Photograph by Karl Frölich. Karl Frölich Collection. Max Planck Institute of European Legal History, Frankfurt/M., inv. SF=F0000D025301a

Market sign in Munster (Westphalia), sword. Karl Frölich Collection, Max Planck Institute of European Legal History, Frankfurt/M., inv. SF=M0003D002601a

Pillory at municipal in Bernkastel. Karl Frölich Collection, Max Planck Institute of European Legal History, Frankfurt/M., inv. SF=G0012F127701a

Thingstead in Kaichen (Niddatal, county of Wetterau, Hesse). Photograph by Karl Frölich, Collection Karl Frölich, MPI European Legal History, Frankfurt/M., Inv. SF=F0000D916801a

Rolandstatue in Belgern (county of Torgau-Oschatz, Saxony). Photograph by Karl Frölich, Collection Karl Frölich, MPI European Legal History, Frankfurt/M., Inv. SF=F0000D055101a

Piazzetta San Marco with columns of Saint Marc and Theodorus, place of execution in Venice. Postkard by H. Schnell to K. Frölich, 1943, Collection Karl Frölich,MPI European Legal History, Inv. SF=G1391F483401a




© KHI in Florence | 22.01.2022 06:48:00