• Bruce Baer Arnold
  • Wendy Bonython


Within the artistic world, many have argued that a respect for dignity and human rights stems from debates concerning artistic freedom. However, when considering human rights and dignity, one must step out of conventional discussions and consider the recipients of the art to identify legal and ethical inequities concerning the contexts and subjects artistically expressed. This article argues that art imposes an obligation upon the viewers’ engagement where the embodiment of human forms are depicted. It argues for an ethic of responsibility.


A Articles/Books/Reports

Alexander, Larry, Is there a Right of Freedom of Expression? (Cambridge University Press, 2005) 140

Alhadeff, Albert, The Raft of the Medusa: Géricault, Art, and Race (Prestel, 2002)

Arnold, Bruce Baer, ‘Death and Indignity’ (2011) 7(10) Privacy Law Bulletin 134

Barendt, Eric, Freedom of Speech (Oxford University Press, 2nd ed, 2007)

Barilan, Yechiel Michael, ‘Bodyworlds and the Ethics of using Human Remains: A Preliminary Discussion’ (2006) 20(5) Bioethics 233

Barkan, Leonard, Transuming Passion: Ganymede and the Erotics of Humanism (Stanford University Press, 1991)

Benjamin, Walter, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ in Hannah Arendt (ed) Illuminations (Harry Zohn trans, Schocken, 1969) 214 [trans of ‘Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit’ (first published 1936)]

Beverley-Smith, Huw, The Commercial Appropriation of Personality (Cambridge University Press, 2008)

Beverley-Smith, Huw, Ansgar Ohly and Agnes Lucas-Schloetter Privacy, Property and Personality: Civil Law Perspectives on Commercial Appropriation (Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Bourdieu, Pierre, The Rules of Art (Susan Emanuel trans, Stanford University Press, 1996) [trans of Les Règles de l’art (first published 1992)]

Brennan, Andrew and Lo, Y S, ‘Two Conceptions of Dignity: Honour and Self-Determination’ in Malpas, Jeff and Lickiss, Norelle (eds) Perspectives on Human Dignity (Springer, 2010) 43

Burns, Lawrence, ‘Gunther von Hagens' Body Worlds: Selling Beautiful Education’ (2007) 7(4) The American Journal of Bioethics 12

Calvert, Clay, ‘The Privacy of Death: An Emergent Jurisprudence and Legal Rebuke to Media Exploitation and a Voyeuristic Culture’ (2006) 26 Loyola Los Angeles Entertainment Law Review 133

Casey, Michael, Che’s Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image (Vintage, 2009)

Capers, Bennett, ‘On Andy Warhol's ‘Electric Chair’ (2006) 94(1) California Law Review 243

Carmi, Guy, ‘Dignity - The Enemy from Within: A Theoretical and Comparative Analysis of Human Dignity as a Free Speech Justification’ (2007) 9(4) University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 958

Carstens, Pieter, ‘Revisiting the Infamous Pernkopf Anatomy Atlas: Historical Lessons for Medical Law and Ethics’ (2012) 18(2) Fundamina: A Journal of Legal History 23

Chong, Denise, The Girl in the Picture: The Story of Kim Phuc, the Photograph, and the Vietnam War (Penguin, 2001)

Danto, Arthur, What Art Is (Yale University Press, 2013)

Dijck, José Van, ‘Digital Cadavers: The Visible Human Project as Anatomical Theater’ (2000) 31(2) Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 271

Dikötter, Frank, Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62 (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2010);

Dunstan, Michael, ‘Australia's National Classification System for Publications, Films and Computer Games: Its Operation and Potential Susceptibility to Political Influence in Classification Decisions’ (2009) 37(1) Federal Law Review 133

Frank, Thomas, The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism (University of Chicago Press, 1997)

Friedman, Andrew, Covert Capital: Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia (University of California Press, 2013) 196

Gaines, Jane, Contested Culture: The Image, the Voice, and the Law (University of North Carolina Press, 1991)

Gelber, Katharine, ‘Distracting the Masses: Art, Local Government and Freedom of Political Speech in Australia’ (2006) 10 Law Text Culture 195

Gewirth, Alan, Self-Fulfillment (Princeton University Press, 1998)

Gewirth, Alan, The Community of Rights (University of Chicago Press, 1996)

Gimpel, René, ‘Art as Commodity, Art as Economic Power’ (2000) 14(51) Third Text 51

Goetzmann, William, ‘Accounting for taste: Art and the Financial Markets Over Three Centuries’ (1993) 83(5) The American Economic Review 1370

Golec, Michael, ‘Media Aesthetics, Sense Perception, and Andy Warhol's Blue Electric Chair’ (2009) 4(1) The Senses and Society 23

Gómez, Mayra, Human Rights in Cuba, El Salvador and Nicaragua: A Sociological Perspective on Human Rights Abuse (Routledge, 2003)

Harris, Bede, ‘Pell v. Council of Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria: Should Blasphemy Be a Crime?: The “Piss Christ” Case and Freedom of Expression’ (1998) 22(1) Melbourne University Law Review 217

Haskins, Casey, ‘Kant and the Autonomy of Art’ (1989) 47(1) The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 43

Helfer, Laurence and Austin, Graeme, Human Rights and Intellectual Property: Mapping the Global Interface (Cambridge University Press, 2011)

Heller, Agnes, ‘Autonomy of Art or the Dignity of the Artwork’ (2008) 9(2) Critical Horizons 139

Hildebrandt, Sabine, ‘Capital Punishment and Anatomy: History and Ethics of an Ongoing Association’ (2008) 21(1) Clinical Anatomy 5

Hildebrandt, Sabine, ‘Research on Bodies of the Executed in German Anatomy: An Accepted Method That Changed During the Third Reich. Study of Anatomical Journals from 1924 to 1951’ (2013) 26(3) Clinical Anatomy 304

Hildebrandt, Sabine, ‘The Women on Stieve's list: Victims of National Socialism Whose Bodies Were Used for Anatomical Research’ (2013) 26(1) Clinical Anatomy 3

Hubbard, Chris, ‘Eduard Pernkopf's Atlas of Topographical and Applied Human Anatomy: The Continuing Ethical Controversy’ (2001) 265(5) The Anatomical Record 207

Jespersen, T. Christine, Rodríguez, Alicita, and Starr, Joseph (eds) The Anatomy of Body Worlds: Critical Essays on the Plastinated Cadavers of Gunther von Hagens (McFarland, 2008)

Jisheng, Yang, Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine 1958-1962 (Stacy Mosher and Guo Jian trans, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013) [trans of Mubei: Yi Jiu Wu Ba – Yi Jiu Liu Er Nian Zhongguo Da Jihuang Shiji (2nd ed, 2010)

Kant, Immanuel, ‘Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals’, in Mary Gregor (ed) Practical Philosophy (Mary Gregor trans, Cambridge University Press (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant), 1999) 43, 79 [trans of Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten (first published 1785)]

Kate MacNeill, ‘When Subject Becomes Object: Nakedness, Art and the Public Sphere’ (2010) 135 Media International Australia Incorporating Culture & Policy 82

Kateb, George, Human Dignity (Belknap Press, 2011)

Kester, Grant, ‘Aesthetics after the end of art: an interview with Susan Buck-Morss’ (1997) 56(1) Art Journal 38

Klingender, Francis, ‘Gericault as Seen in 1848’ (1942) 81(475) The Burlington Magazine 254, 255

Mack, Charles, ‘Botticelli's Venus: Antique Allusions and Medicean Propaganda’ (2002) 28(2) Explorations in Renaissance Culture 207

Margolis, Joseph, What, After All, Is a Work of Art?: Lectures in the Philosophy of Art (Pennsylvania State Press, 2010)

Meilaender, Gilbert, Neither Beast Nor God: The Dignity of the Human Person (Encounter Books, 2009)

Miles, Jonathan, Medusa: The Shipwreck, The Scandal, The Masterpiece (Pimlico, 2014)

Miller, Nancy, ‘The Girl in the Photograph: The Vietnam War and the Making of National Memory’ (2004) 24(2) JAC 261

Mitchell, W. J. T., Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation (University of Chicago Press, 1995)

Mitchell, William, What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images (University of Chicago Press, 2005)

Murray, Christopher, ‘Raft of the Medusa’ Christopher Murray (ed) Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era 1760-1850 (Routledge, 2004) 923

Nussbaum, Martha, Cultivating Humanity (Harvard University Press, 1998)

Nussbaum, Martha, ‘Exactly and Responsibly: A Defense of Ethical Criticism’ (1998) 22(2) Philosophy and Literature 343

Nussbaum, Martha, ‘”Finely Aware and Richly Responsible": Moral Attention and the Moral Task of Literature’ (1985) 82(10) The Journal of Philosophy 516

Nussbaum, Martha, ‘Human Dignity and Political Entitlements’ in Human Dignity and Bioethics: Essays Commissioned by the President’s Council on Bioethics (The President’s Council on Bioethics, 2008) 351, 357

O’Malley, Charles, Andreas Vesalius of Brussels, 1514-1564 (University of California Press, 1964)

Panush, Richard, ‘Nazi Origins of an Anatomy Text: The Pernkopf Atlas’ (1996) 276(20) JAMA 1633

Post, Robert (ed), Censorship and Silencing: Practices of Cultural Regulation (Getty Publications, 1998)

Rawls, John, A Theory of Justice (Harvard University Press, 1st ed, 1971)

Rawls, John, ‘The Sense of Justice’ in Samuel Freeman (ed) John Rawls: Collected Papers (Harvard University Press, 1999) 115

Raz, Joseph, ‘Free Expression and Personal Identification’ (1991) 11(3) Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 303

Rösler, Hannes, ‘Dignitarian Posthumous Personality Rights: An Analysis of US and German Constitutional and Tort Law’ (2008) 26(1) Berkely Journal of International Law 153

Russell, Margarita, ‘The Iconography of Rembrandt's “Rape of Ganymede”’ (1977) 9(1) Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art 5

Seidelman, William, ‘The Legacy of Academic Medicine and Human Exploitation in the Third Reich’ (2000) 43(3) Perspectives in biology and medicine 325

Stone, Adrienne, ‘Rights, Personal Rights and Freedoms: The Nature of the Freedom of Political Communication’ (2001) 25 Melbourne University Law Review 374

Sunstein, Cass, ‘Pornography and the First Amendment’ (1986) 4 Duke Law Journal 589

Tate, Winifred, Counting the Dead: The Culture and Politics of Human Rights Activism in Colombia (University of California Press, 2007

Terilli, Samuel, and Sigman Splichal ‘Public Access to Autopsy and Death-Scene Photographs: Relational Privacy, Public Records and Avoidable Collisions’ (2005) 10(3) Communication Law and Policy 313

Wadman, Meredith, ‘Ethics Worries of Execution Twist to Internet's 'Visible Man’’ (1996) 382(6593) Nature 657

Waldby, Catherine, ‘Revenants: The Visible Human Project and the Digital Uncanny’ (1997) 3(1) Body and Society 1

Waldby, Catherine, The Visible Human Project: Informatic Bodies and Posthuman Medicine (Psychology Press, 2000)

Wright, Thomas, State Terrorism in Latin America: Chile, Argentina, and International Human Rights (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006)

B Legislation

Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth)

Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (Cth)

Classification of Theatrical Performances Act 1978 (SA)

Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)

Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld)

Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)

Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)

Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth)

Summary Offences Act (NT)

C Treaties

UN General Assembly, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, opened for signature 16 December 1966, 999 UNTS 171 (entered into force 23 March 1976)

Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (A/HRC/25/63) (United Nations, 2013)

D Other

BBC News, ‘Andy Warhol Auction Record Shattered’ BBC News (online),14 November 2013 <>

Goya’s 1810-1820 Los Desastres de la Guerra (an echo of Callot’s 1633 Les Grandes Misères de la guerre)