In this etching, James Ensor invented satirical and grotesque imagery to subvert and denounce the institutional authority of the Belgian legal system. Ensor cast himself as an exasperated lawyer addressing five judges and six attorneys on behalf of his two clients sitting in the foreground. The bizarre, mask-like faces of the judges and attorneys convey comical expressions ranging from amusement to confusion to boredom. The judicial representatives’ disinterest in the impassioned speech of the defense attorney, crucifixion scene, and off-balance scales in the upper-left corner suggest that a miscarriage of justice will be the inevitable result of this trial.
Label from Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One: Humor and Satire from the Collection, November 19, 2016–March 19, 2017