Partridge: Take Up the Sword of Justice


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Bernard Partridge Take Up the Sword of Justice 1915.  Despite a published German warning that “travelers sailing in the war zone on ships of Great Britain…do so at their own risk” the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 caused outrage around the world. No single event did more to mobilize American public opin­ion against Germany than the sinking of this ocean liner which caused the deaths of 1200 civilians. Enraged red-cloaked figure of Britannia storms the heavens as Lusitania and her victims sink into darkened sea. 30×20 conservation backed,


Joseph Darracott & Belinda Loftus First World War Posters pages 61 & 71, Martin Hardie & Arthur Sabin World War I Posers, page 2.

Robert  J. Johnson’s forthcoming book Your King and Country Needs You comments:

Britannia as Dike [Justice] rises from the sea, offering the “Sword of Justice” to potential recruits, as victims from the Lusitania drown around her. Britannia is not only the potential agent of justice but also the representative of a homeland and its innocents under attack. The central female figure echos prototypes from the history of art, which would have been familiar, even identifiable, to an educated audience of the early twentieth century (if not today).  Indeed, they would have been common enough to be interpreted correctly by less educated viewers as well, “who would respond instinctively to the high diction of the picture and both its overt and subliminal message.”  (Britannia is a) classical figures in ancient garb of white stola and scarlet cloak, covering her head in the manner of a Vestal Virgin.  She brandishes the “sword of justice.”  Strong sea winds dramatically agitate the folds of their elaborate dress and cloak.