The Adjustment of Conflicting Interests
John La Farge
Description from the artist
The subject or pretext of Count Raymond of Toulouse in this imaginary action has been chosen because the story of the rulers of that race is fairly a type of the very many difficulties in the ad judgment of Mediaeval ideals and necessities. This line of sovereign lords had to struggle with the demands of the Church, formulated more distinctly then than before, to meet the opposing claims of their vassals or their subjects, heretical and denounced by the representatives of the Church, to meet the various possible questions of their rights as regarding their own interior claims of sovereignty; and their relations to the King whose power, gradually increasing, devoured theirs; and to meet both in policy and arms the ferocious attacks o [sic] other lords anxious to dispossess them of their properties and rights of sovereignty, now urged and now held back by the Roman Pontiff. Moreover, there is a romantic character to the troubled story of the establishment of the Inquisition and the violent excesses of Orthodox and Heretic.
There is also the memory of fierce Mediaeval war, so that in this picture “the figures in the story, acting within the four walls of a church, represent the organized bodies, whose chiefs and representatives meet in a form of war, therein strict law and no longer ethical justice is the theme."
Each of the personages is, to a certain extent, opposed to the others and ready to meet any contradictory inimical intention on their part. The rights of the Bishop, which are partly ecclesiastical and partly temporal, may be in opposition to these of each of the religious orders whose representatives stand by him. They, whatever their submission to the Bishop may be, have their claim both of religious liberty for themselves, and their obligations and duty to their Bishop. They are also either friendly or antagonistic to the temporal ruler of the city, according to what his attitude may be in matters spiritual; and they too have property which they have to guard.
The representatives of the city have the relative freedom of the city at heart, the rights of the citizens easily trenched upon by both war-lord and ecclesiastic, and they too may in the future discover manners of balancing the poser of their immediate ruler by that of the sovereign lord, the King.
The picture is meant to be strictly accurate in archaeological detail, but it is sufficiently so for the question of typical representation. The moment of the story was chosen so as to allow a certain latitude of accuracy in the garments of the personages. This southern place was also chosen because of the great freedom in many matters, such as the dress of ecclesiastics; all of which would allow the artist to be less tied down than in some other choice of moment.