Exhibit – Visualizing Capital Punishment: Spectacle, Shame, and Sympathy

Open to HUID holders in the Caspersen Room, Langdell Hall, weekdays 9 to 5 through June 2023; and open to all online.

This Harvard Law School Library exhibit explores the power of visual imagery to change minds about the death penalty. Drawing from material in the Library’s Historical & Special Collections, the exhibit tells a story in three chapters: Spectacle, Shame, and Sympathy. Highlights include English execution broadsides; original political cartoons from a collection recently donated by Harvey Silverglate (HLS 1967); and a modern art portfolio, Contra la Pena de Muerte, by Puerto Rican artist Antonio Martorell.

Image credits: Executions of Criminals, http://bit.ly/DyingSpeeches seq. 1; Antonio Martorell, Contra la Pena de Muerte, http://bit.ly/HlslMartorell seq. 5 & 7.

Visualizing Capital Punishment was inspired in part by the Library’s recent acquisition of Antonio Martorell’s beautiful and haunting portfolio, a testament to the horrors of capital punishment. It was further inspired by a recently concluded exhibit at the Harvard Art Museums, Dare to Know: Prints and Drawings in the Age of Enlightenment, which explored the use of graphic arts to communicate new ideas and change minds. Several artists, notably Francisco Goya and William Hogarth, featured in both exhibits.

 Visualizing Capital Punishment was curated by KB Beck, Historical & Special Collections, with special thanks to Juan-Andrés Fuentes, Antonio Martorell, Terri Messina, Elizabeth Rudy, Lesley Schoenfeld, and colleagues from Historical & Special Collections, Harvard Library Imaging Services, and the Weissman Preservation Center.

Scroll to Top