Law, Code, and Governance in Prophetic Painting: Notes on the Emergence of Early, High, and Late Modern Forms of Life and Governance

  • Ronnie Lippens


This contribution aims to demonstrate how forms of governance are inextricably intertwined with the forms of life that give rise to them and how such forms of life/governance tend to emerge, historically, in the sensory sphere – on canvas in particular – before they do so symbolically, or conceptually, in the spoken or written word. In other words, emerging forms of life/governance leave traces first in ‘prophetic’ painting before they do so in tracts, books, texts, film scripts, installation art, and so on. This is demonstrated with regard to three historical periods that, each, saw the birth of a particular form of life/governance, that is, early modernity (roughly from 1470 to 1520), high modernity (1750–1800), and late modernity (1940–1990). This contribution includes discussions of ‘prophetic paintings’ by early modern painters such as Jean Fouquet, Gerard David, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Antonello da Messina, and Quentin Metsys; high modern painters such as William Hogarth, Joseph Wright of Derby, and Henry Fuseli; and, finally, late modern painters such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.


Total Control Modern Form Late Modernity Open Border Sheer Nature 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This contribution was first presented as a guest lecture at the Law School of Exeter University (Tremough campus) in May 2009. Many thanks go to all those who provided comments on that occasion, in particular Catherine Dupre, Stephen Skinner, and Melanie Williams. Their comments have much improved the quality of this essay. All remaining flaws and errors are the author’s entirely.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Institute for Social Sciences and School of Sociology and Criminology StaffsKeele UniversityKeeleUK

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