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Tabula Picta

Painting and Writing in Medieval Law

By Marta Madero. Translated by Monique Dascha Inciarte and Roland David Valayre. Foreword by Roger Chartier

Publication Year: 2010

To whom does a painted tablet—a tabula picta—belong? To the owner of the physical piece of wood on which an image is painted? Or to the person who made the painting on that piece of wood? By extension, one might ask, who is the owner of a text? Is it the person who has written the words, or the individual who possesses the piece of parchment or slab of stone on which those words are inscribed?

In Tabula Picta Marta Madero turns to the extensive glosses and commentaries that medieval jurists dedicated to the above questions when articulating a notion of intellectual and artistic property radically different from our own. The most important goal for these legal thinkers, Madero argues, was to situate things—whatever they might be—within a logical framework that would allow for their description, categorization, and placement within a proper hierarchical order. Only juridical reasoning, they claimed, was capable of sorting out the individual elements that nature or human art had brought together in a single unit; by establishing sets of distinctions and taxonomies worthy of Borges, legal discourse sought to demonstrate that behind the deceptive immediacy of things, lie the concepts and arguments of what one might call the artifices of the concrete.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Material Texts

Title Page

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pp. v

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Foreword: The Things and the Words

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pp. vii-xi

Subtle and erudite, Marta Madero's book is a contribution both to the history of the property rights to artistic works and to the history of ideas about material things. The corpus that she so meticulously analyzes is that of the glosses and commentaries that medieval jurists consecrated to the question of tabula picta, ...

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pp. 1-14

Who is the owner of a painting? He who painted the figures or he who owns the wood tablet on which the painter applied colors? Who is the owner of a written object? He who owns the parchment or he who wrote the text? From the twelfth century and until the end of the Middle Ages, jurists have debated these issues ...

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Chapter 1. Dominium and Object Extinction

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pp. 15-27

When the issue is to know to whom a written or painted object belongs when the owner of the support and the owner of the inscriptions or motives are not the same person, things, at the outset, always come down to a determination of the dominium. However, under Roman law, the dominium is invested in the thing; ...

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Chapter 2. Accessio

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pp. 28-37

Two of the most interesting texts about accessio are Placentin's Summa to the Institutes, probably written during the last third of the twelfth century,1 and Azo's Summa,2 written at the beginning of the thirteenth century. In fact, Placentin is the first to discuss the tabula picta at length within an original system. ...

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Chapter 3. Specificatio

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pp. 38-46

The first gloss writer who thought of painting within the explicit framework of specificatio is Placentin, writing about the Institutes. However, one should not forget that, for him, specificatio was a category subsumed into accessio, and most particularly into "accessio discreta de re ad personam," which ranked ...

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Chapter 4. Form, Being, and Name

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pp. 47-52

According to the Accursian gloss, the idea of a thing that is mutata applies as follows: "de materia in speciem: vel contra: vel de specie in speciem: vel prima facies deteriorata vel destructata est" (either a matter changed into species, or a species changed into species, either a first form deteriorated or destroyed), ...

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Chapter 5. Ferruminatio, Adplumbatio

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pp. 53-66

A coherence of parts is implied when one would make of them a thing contained "uno spiritu," Pomponius says (D.41.3.30) - "id est una elementatione," the ordinary gloss proposes (D.6.23.5 Vno spiritu). The arguments drawn from the opposition between ferruminatio and adplumbatio to approach ...

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Chapter 6. Factae and Infectae

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pp. 67-72

None of the three fragments from the Justinian corpus applied the categories of things that are factae and infectae to painting and writing, but Odofredo and Alberico do, to designate the relationship between colors, ink, the tabula and the charta. The opposition also is at the center of the gloss at D.6.1.23. ...

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Chapter 7. Praevalentia

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pp. 73-75

In an article on specificatio, Contardo Ferrini states that the Romans conceived of two original forms of acquisition of dominium, one being that of occupation, and the other they called "attraction of the dominium." The Romans may have expressed that power of attraction of the dominium in sentences ...

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Chapter 8. Pretium and Pretiositas

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pp. 76-83

For the gloss writers, orthodoxy with respect to the Justinian corpus on tabula picta may take three forms. Two of them concern hypotheses of logic and the third a distribution of objects. The first one does not differentiate between pictura and littera, because "it is necessary that the thing appertain ...

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Chapter 9. The Part and the Whole

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pp. 84-88

According to Roman law, the pars is considered that which, in relation to the whole, is an element whose subtraction would make the thing seem mutilated, diminished in its essence, in its integrity.1 Thus one regards the painted tabulae set into the walls and marble incrustations (D. as partes of the house, ...

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Chapter 10. Ornandi Causa

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pp. 89-92

Another criterion must be added to the previously mentioned plurality governing the union or transformation of materials, which, in turn, cancels the rules of inseparability, part, and price: the ornandi causa, whose consequence is that ornamentum sequitur rem ornatam. The gloss and commentary writers refer ...

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Chapter 11. Qualitas and Substantia

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pp. 93-96

In his commentary at D.6.1.23, Angelo de Ubaldi (1328 - ca. 1407), Baldus's brother, both categorizes the relationship between substantia and substantia, and reflects on the relationship between substantia and qualitas focused on painting and writing. Paint and writing, which are both applied on their ...

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pp. 97-102

To order the interpretations, let us return first to the Summae, which were elaborated between the second third of the twelfth century and the beginning of the thirteenth century. Under Placentin's construction, the accessio subsumes the specificatio. The main split is between things that are separate, ...


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pp. 103-114


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pp. 115-132


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pp. 133-138


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pp. 139-142

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pp. 143

This book could not have been written without the faithful support of several colleagues and institutions. Jacques Revel, Bernard Vincent, and Roger Chartier invited me on several occasions to the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, where I was able to present various stages in the development ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812205879
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812241860

Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Material Texts