Time and Truth


In the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, hangs Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Time Unveiling Truth, painted sometime between 1745 and 1750. The catalogue card describes the painting as follows:

This complex allegory displays Tiepolo's facility for depicting abstract concepts through personification. Truth is depicted as a proud young woman whose fair, voluptuous beauty is revealed by the dark, gnarled figure of Father Time. Time's chariot and his scythe symbolize death; Cupid, whose quiver of arrows remains on the ground, represents earthly love rendered powerless by Time. The parrot and the mirror represent Truth's enemies: sensuousness, vanity, and deceit. Truth's emblem, the sun, shines above, while all earthly things, symbolized by the globe, lie subject beneath her foot.

Well, time is certainly doing something to truth—but “unveiling” and “revealing” are rather euphemistic ways to put it.