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Each Lecture and Reading Room in Langdell Has its Certain Group of Portraits--Austin Houses Famous and Infamous English Justices


The collection of portraits in the Harvard Law School is one of the great possessions of that institution, rivalled perhaps only by its collection of legal books and manuscripts. Scattered through Langdell Hall and Austin Hall, the portraits become familiar to the ever-changing body of students but are little known to outsiders, even those interested in artistic things. The casual visitor to the School, however, cannot fail to be impressed by the size of the collection and by the intrinsic merit and value of the individual items. There are many etchings and engravings, but the chief glory of the collection is the oil portraits, many of them the work of distinguished artists. Particularly notable are the pictures of Lord Newton of the Scottish Bench, by Raeburn, of Lord Chief Baron Macdonald of the English Bench, by Romney--both in the Austin Hall reading room--the large portrait of Dean C. C. Langdell, by Vinton, which hangs in the main reading room of Langdell Hall, and that of Chief Justice Taney by Leutze, in the lecture room known as Langdell South.

Faculty in South Room

The small south reading room in Langdell Hall is hung with portraits, for the most part of the Law School Faculty prior to 1879. On the center of the south wall is the group of the Royall family painted by Feke. Isaac Royall was a Boston merchant who, dying in 1781, provided in his will for a Harvard professorship of law or physic. It was not, however, until 1815 that the Corporation, which had chosen to establish a professorship of law, was able to do so. The Royall Professorship is, next to the Vinerian at Oxford, the oldest named professorship of law in the English-speaking world. The picture has the distinction of being the only painting in the Law School that includes women. On each side of the Royall group are portraits of early members of the Law School Faculty. Here are likenesses of Asahel Stearns, A.B. 1797, University Professor of Law 1817-29; Joseph Story, A.B. 1798, Dane Professor of Law 1829-45, Harvard Overseer, and for twenty years a member of the Corporation; Joel Parker, Royall Professor of Law 1847-68; Simon Greenleaf, Royall Professor of Law 1833-46; Theophilus Parsons, A.B. 1815, Dane Professor of Law 1848-70; and Emory Washburn, University Professor of Law 1856-62, Bussey Professor of Law 1862-76. On the east wall is a portrait of Nathan Dane, founder of the Dane professorship and for whom Dane Hall, now demolished, was named. It is of interest to note that the Harvard Law School at one time was known as the Dane Law School. Other portraits are of Justice Louis D. Brandeis, LL.B. '77, of the United States Supreme Court, at the age of 32 when he lectured at the School; of Jeremy Gridley "father of the Boston Bar," painted by Smibert in 1731; of Chancellor Kent of New York, the author of "Kent's Commentaries"; of Judge Egbert Benson, painted by John Trumbull; and of John Philpot Curran, the famous Irish advocate.

Famous Jurists in Main Room

In the main reading room of Langdell Hall are portraits of the Law School Faculty after the School had been reorganized by Christopher C. Langdell, '51, who was dean of the School from 1870 to 1895 and Dane Professor from the former date until 1900. Many of the pictures are of professors still active in the School. Here is one of the Law School's prized possessions--the portrait of Dean Langdell by Frederic P. Vinton. The painting hangs over the great fireplace on the north wall, and on each side are portraits of James Barr Ames, '68, Professor of Law 1877-79, Bussey Professor of Law 1879-1903, Dane Professor of Law 1903-10, Dean of the School 1895-1910; and of James Bradley Thayer; '52, Royall Professor of Law 1873-83, Professor of Law 1883-93, Weld Professor of Law 1893-1902. Vinton also painted the likenesses of Jeremiah Smith, '56, Story Professor of Law 1890-1910, and of John Chipman Gray, '59, Story Professor of Law, 1875-83, Royall Professor of Law, 1883-1913, that are in the main reading room. The pictures of Joseph D. Brannan, '69, Professor of Law 1898-1908, Bussey Professor of Law 1908-16; of Eugene Wambaugh, '76, Professor of Law 1892-1903, Langdell Professor of Law 1903-25; of Joseph H. Beale, '82, Professor of Law 1903-08, Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence 1908-13, Royall Professor of Law Professor of Law 1908-13, Story Professor of Law 1913-19, Weld Professor of Law 1919--are by C. S. Hopkinson, '91. Those of Samuel Williston, '82, Professor of Law 1895-1902, Weld Professor of Law 1903-1919, Dane Professor of Law 1919--; and of John H. Arnold, first librarian of the Law School; are by E. C. Tarbell. The painting of Ezra Ripley Thayer, '88, Dane Professor of Law and Dean of the School 1910-15, is by I. M. Gaugengigl. At the left of the fireplace is a marble bust of Joel Parker, an early Royall Professor of Law at the School, who had previously been Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Hampshire; the bust is a recent gift from his son.

Foreign Lawyers in Small Room

In the small reading room, made from original stack space, are portraits of Chief Justice Marshall, by Chester Harding, purchased by subscriptions from Law School students, alumni, and friends; of Daniel Webster, by Joseph Ames, purchased chiefly by students' subscriptions immediately after Webster's death, and pronounced by Rufus Choate to be the best likeness of Webster he had ever seen; and of Rufus Choate, by T. T. Spear, a little known Boston artist. The walls of the room are literally covered with cartoons of English, French, and American lawyers which appeared in Vanity Fair; they are the gift of the late Professor John C. Gray.

The Langdell north lecture room has a large collection of portraits of lawyers, officials, English law teachers, and scholars. The group also contains many pictures of English courts, etchings and engravings, and a set of colored prints of court scenes and court buildings in England and Scotland.

The portraits of American judges and lawyers are grouped in the Langdell south lecture room. The center of the south wall has a painting of Chief Justice Taney by Leutze, who painted the familiar "Washington Crossing the Delaware." The portrait of the great chief justice is regarded as notable; it shows him at the age of 83, and was made in 1859 for his daughter. On the same wall are portraits of Justices Story, Gray, McKenna; Brown, Holmes, Moody, Brandeis, and Sanford, and of Chief Justice Fuller and Taft, all of the United States Supreme Bench. Chief Justice Fuller and Justices Brown, Gray, Brandeis, Holmes; Story, Sanford, and Moody were either professors at Harvard or graduates of the School. Justice Benjamin R. Curtis, A.B. 1829, LL.B. '32, is the only graduate of the Law School who sat on the Supreme Bench of the United States not represented in the group. The collection in that room includes etchings, engravings, and photographs of courts, judges, and lawyers, and of graduates of the School who have held distinguished positions at the bar and on the bench. One of the most interesting is of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in his uniform as a captain in the Union Army at the time of the Civil War.

Austin Houses English Jurists

The paintings in Austin Hall rival those of Langdell Hall in both number and excellence. In fact, the reading-room collection in many ways surpasses that of any other room in the School and may well be considered an art collection in itself. In it are oil portraits of famous, and infamous, English judges. They are forty-two in number, and the group includes work by Lely, Kneller, Romney, and Raeburn. Here is the painting of Lord Newton, a Scottish judge, by Raeburn, which is believed to be the artist's original of his larger portrait of Lord Newton made for the Faculty of Advocates of Edinburgh. The portrait of Lord Newton and the one of Lord Chief Baron Macdonald, an English judge, by Romney, may well be considered the treasures of the Law School collection.

Recent acquisitions include portraits of Sir Nathan Wright, Benjamin Prat, Sir John Maynard, John Williams and Stephen Sewall. The portrait of Maynard is by Kneller and is regarded as one of the finest paintings in the School's collection. Maynard, who served under Cromwell and Charles II, was a great legal scholar and edited the Year Books. The portrait represents him in his red robe as serjeant-at-law and the special head dress--the coif--of the serjeants.

The painting of Williams is an unsigned likeness of him made when he was Lord Keeper of the Great Seal under James I and Charles I. Williams was the last ecclesiastical personage who held the Great Seal, which was entrusted to him in 1616, when he was dean of Westminster; in 1625, when he was deprived of the former office, he had become Archbishop of York. He was the successor of Francis Bacon as Keeper of the Seal. Williams was not a lawyer, and his appointment was much criticised, but no charges were brought against him in connection with his proceedings as a judge and presumably he became in time reasonably satisfactory. He died in 1650 in his native country of Wales to which he had retired at the beginning of the Civil War.

Sewall Harvard Graduate

Sewall graduated from Harvard College in 1721, was appointed judge of the Superior Court of Judicature for the Province of Massachusetts in 1729, and in 1752 was made chief justice. He died in 1760. The painting by Feke, is regarded as a splendid example of his work, of which the School has another in the group of the family of Isaac Royall, founder of the Royall professorship. The Law School was able to acquire the Sewall portrait through the generosity of the Harvard Law School Association, and some 35 graduates and friends.

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