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    Justice, with one foot forward

    William Eicholtz's Lady of Justice is firmly ensconced on the wall of the Country Court building in Melbourne ... Arts writer Mark Holsworth speaks to the sculptor and finds out how he went about creating this bold expression of justice  

    THE figure of Lady Justice, Justitia to the ancient Romans, or Themis to the ancient Greeks, is a symbol common to courthouses around the world. On the front of the County Court of Victoria in Melbourne is the Lady of Justice, created in 2002 by the sculptor William Eicholtz.

    Recently in his studio, in Melbourne's suburb of Windsor, I talked with Eicholtz about the creation and meaning of his Lady of Justice

    He showed me a folder of his preparatory material and documentation for the development of the work. There were photographs of other statues of justice, preparatory drawing and the initial maquette for the sculpture. The maquette consisted of bits of cardboard cut-outs and moulded paper that showed the parts of the figure and the robe.

    Eicholtz's work was not what the architects, Daryl Jackson and Associates, had intended for the main entrance to the County Court. However, Judge Michael Strong, who was then in charge of the building project, was adamant that he did want the pixilated image proposed by the architects. The image was too difficult to read and Strong wanted a clearly identifiable image of Justice. 

    Eicholtz's sculpture functions not only as a crest for the building, but a simplified line drawing of the work has become the logo for the court. 

    Importantly, it serves as a symbol of what goes on inside the building. 

    Eicholtz in his Windsor studioJustice Betty King of the Victorian Supreme Court refers to the sculpture when instructing juries on their role and duty in the system.

    Ancient ideals are reflected in Eicholtz's allegorical figure - the blindfold of impartiality, the uneven scales weighing the cases, and the double edged sword of reason and justice. Eicholtz explained: 

    "It was my job to find a credible, artistic and meaningful solution to the divergent vision of each of the major stakeholders." 

    It was one of his earliest public commissions, coming only eight years after he had graduated in Fine Arts from Monash University. 

    Eicholtz won the 2005 Helen Lempriere Outdoor Sculpture Award, the biggest art prize for sculpture in Australia. Most recently, his work Courage was installed in front of the Fitzroy Town Hall.

    Sculptor Les Kossatz, who created Hard Slide, the falling sheep in the foyer of the National Gallery of Victoria, recommend Eicholtz for the County Court commission.

    "Les Kossatz was a lecturer of mine, and he became a mentor and a great friend."

    Kossatz's Hard Slide

    The model for the figure of Justice was Hannah Russell, the then president of the Life Models Society. Without the details of the female form, leaving only her silhouette, any suggestion of age, religion or race was removed from the work. Only the sumptuous, dynamic curves and folds of her flowing robe and blindfold were reproduced directly from the model.

    Eicholtz created a contemporary idea of the traditional bronze or stone figure, matching the glass and steel architecture of the court house. 

    The figure in profile is a references to the bas-reliefs of Ancient Greece. It is a dynamic, progressive Justice stepping forward to interpret the law, her sword ready for action. This is not an enthroned Justice, with both feet planted solidly on the ground, her sword at rest.

    Beside Lady of Justice is the state symbol of the Southern Cross.

    There was a tight deadline to complete the commission, but fortunately Eicholtz was not cutting steel and moulding metal in his small studio. Scaled-up from his drawings Lady of Justice was manufactured and installed by J.K. Fasham, a firm of architectural and metal fabricators in Clayton South. 

    J.K. Fasham has been fabricating and transporting sculptures for 40 years and has been responsible for many other public pieces, including Deborah Helpburn, Inge King and Anthony Pryor's The Legend at the MCG. 

    Mark Holsworth is an arts writer whose book Melbourne's Sculptures will be published by Melbourne Books in early 2015

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