Picturing Early Nineteenth Century Courtroom Actors: Joseph Bouet’s Images of Judges, Lawyers and Felons at Durham Criminal Court (c.1830-1856)

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Visual images of the judiciary have increasingly become the subject of academic research, particularly by Professor Leslie Moran and the project Judging images: the making, management and consumption of judicial images. Images of judges have been described by Moran as ‘a neglected, sometimes poorly understood and underused source of data’. Our paper addresses a little-known collection of images by Joseph Bouet (1791-1856), a French-born artist who settled in Durham in the early nineteenth century. His pencil drawings are a fascinating form of courtroom art, featuring representations of judges, lawyers and defendants from c.1830-1856. Save for two images of murderers, it appears that none of the drawings were produced for general public consumption.

Legal imagery from this period in North East England is relatively rare, and yet this collection of approximately forty images has not yet been the subject of detailed study. Our research aims to address this, but, hampered by Covid-19, we have had to rely on digitized images - the associated papers remain archived, tantalizing out of reach. As such the paper will address the images and the artist through a series of research questions: Who were the men portrayed? When were the images created? What link (if any) had Bouet to the law? What led him to produce these drawings of judges, lawyers and felons? What access did he have to enable him to produce the drawings? The paper will consider what this cache of pictures, previously unexplored by legal scholars, can add to the literature on images of judges and justice in the North East and further afield.
Period1 Sept 2020
Event titleSociety of Legal Scholars Conference
Event typeConference
LocationExeter, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational