"a woman, draped and blindfolded, carrying a lighted torch"
Justice (1556)
Public DomainJustice (1556) - Credit: Maarten van Heemskerck
The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World (1886)
Public DomainThe Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World (1886) - Credit: Edward Moran

Kurtz's enigmatic painting appears to be a conflation of traditional allegorical depictions of Justice and Liberty. Astraea, goddess of justice, is often depicted blindfolded (to signify the impartiality of justice), while Liberty is shown bearing a lighted torch.

The novel's unnamed narrator had earlier described British traders and empire builders as 'bearing the sword, and often the torch ... bearers of a spark from the sacred fire', while Marlow had referred to the Romans in Britain as 'men going at it blind'. A discarded manuscript passage had also envisioned Kurtz as a 'man possessed with moral ideas holding a torch in the heart of darkness'.