Lucio Fontana, La Giustizia tra il potere legislativo e il potere esecutivo (1937-1939)


During the decorative campaign of Palazzo di Giustizia in Milan Lucio Fontana accomplished a pink marble low relief, entitled La Giustizia tra il potere legislativo e il potere esecutivo (1937-1939). The triptych is located in the Corte d’Appello section, along the wall of the 'Archivio ex-schede' room, at the first floor of the building. The thematic series of this part of the Palazzo is completed by the following artworks: La condanna di Caino, a high relief by Giovanni Prini (1937-1939; Aula II); La Giustizia e il Potere Esecutivo, a low relief by Ercole Drei (1937-1939; aula III); Il bene che (non) uccide il male, a low relief by Giacomo Manzù (1937-1939, Aula ex-minori).

Main Principles

  1. The ‘arte di Stato’: Modernity and Modernization

  2. The Boundaries of Realism: Constructing Collective Subjectivities


La Giustizia tra il potere legislativo e il potere esecutivo is a public artwork conceived for one of the most representative places of the Italian society during the Ventennio, Palazzo di Giustizia in Milan Lucio Fontana worked on the low relief from 1937 to 1939, organising a structure and a subject according to the severe rationalist architectural environment. The material, pink marble, recalls an ancient constructive tradition and the framework, a triptych, retraces a long artistic path, from the Middle Ages to the contemporary era The result is a perfect combination between sacred and profane, a modern and original version of the earthly and heavenly Justice with references coming from the past.

The earthly Justice stands in the central recess, easily recognisable for the symbol she brings in her left hand, a scale, while the other hand points upwards, reminding the heavenly Justice. Her static pose, together with a flattened perspective and a solid drapery, highlights a connection with a Primitivist style, especially with the Italian Renaissance painter Masaccio. Her gesture seems to be both a self-quote, recalling Fontana’s Il figliol prodigo (1934), and a reference to Plato indicating the world of ideas in the Scuola di Atene by Raffaello (1509-1511).

In Fontana’s version, the Justice is flanked by the Legislative power (on the right), recognisable for the table of the law in his hands, and the Executive power (on the left), with a branch – 'verga' – and an axe, similar to a 'fascio littorio'. All together, they represent an allegory of the Justice, which is supposed to be both earthly and divine, to come from above and be present in the human world, and to be impartial before everyone.

Even if Fontana’s contribution did not extend to the whole room, but to a limited space, the artist accomplished a solemn low relief, easily readable and full of admonishment. The subject, the way it is treated and its destination are a clear reference to an "arte di stato", officially bringing universal values to the whole community. To do so, Fontana chose to put side-by-side ancient and modern references, attempting to build a dialogue with the viewers coming into Palazzo di Giustizia. While other artworks like Giustizia fascista by Arturo Martini can be considered an overpopulated ‘Roman Last judgement’, the triptych of Fontana is a clear and simple allegory, translatable in a message that one can read and understand clearly: it is reflection and meditation, more than action.


Campiglio, Paolo. 1995. Lucio Fontana. La scultura architettonica negli anni Trenta. Nuoro: Ilisso.

Crispolti, Enrico. 2006. Lucio Fontana. Milan: Skira.

Silvia Colombo