©Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam, foto: Tom Haartsen

Relief Tribunal

Artus Quellinus (I), 1648 — 1665
Royal Palace, Amsterdam

In 1648 a large, unprecedentedly impressive city hall was erected in the center of Amsterdam. This ambitious building project stemmed from the desire of Amsterdam’s regents to present their city as the world’s thriving focal point. According to contemporary Joost van den Vondel, the success of this eighth wonder of the world was the result of Antwerp artist Artus Quellinus having been appointed as supervisor of the sculpture workshop. Quellinus’ first sculptures for the Vierschaar, or tribunal, instantaneously proved his talent. They constitute a sophisticated iconographic program emphasizing the function of this ceremonial courtroom in terms of content and emotion. Three dramatic reliefs depicting exemplary judges from a distant past served as support to the bailiff and aldermen, seated on the raised marble bench in front of the sculpture, deciding on life and death. Facing death, the condemned will have recognized themselves especially in the mourning caryatids, literally weighed down under the burden of evil, guilt, and sorrow.

Marlies Stoter, Curator of Fine Arts, Fries Museum, Leeuwarden

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