Time Unveiling Truth

about 1758
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Italian (Venetian), 1696–1770)


231.1 x 167 cm (91 x 65 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas

Not On View





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.


Probably commissioned by Giovanni Girolamo Orti (b. 1699 - d. 1772), Palazzo Orto agli Scalzi, Verona, where it remained until the nineteenth century [see note 1]; taken from Verona to Venice and, in 1865, purchased in Venice by Louis Auguste (b. 1805 - d. 1889), Baron de Schwiter, Paris; between 1865 and 1867, taken by Baron de Schwiter from Venice to Paris [see note 2]; May 3, 1886, Schwiter sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, lot 38, sold for 20,000 fr. to de Schwiter. By 1898, Willy Blumenthal, Paris [see note 3]; November 29, 1935, Blumenthal sale, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, lot 65, sold for 200,000 fr. to M. and Mme. Léon Cotnareanu, Paris; December 14, 1960, Cotnareanu sale, Musée Galliéra, Paris, lot 14, to Rudolf J. Heinemann (dealer; b. 1902 - d. 1975), New York; 1961, sold by Rudolph J. Heinemann to the MFA for $210,000. (Accession Date: December 13, 1961)

[1] Enrico Maria Guzzo, " 'Nota delle pitture degli autori veronesi per farne l'incisione ed altri anedoti' di Saverio della Rosa sul patrimonio artistico veronese," Studi Storici Luigi Simeoni 52 (2002), pp. 376-377, 400-401. Between about 1810 and 1818, Saverio della Rosa (1741-1821) recorded a "Verità svellata dal Tempo" by Tiepolo at the palace. In 1807, Girolamo Orti, nephew of Giovanni Girolamo Orti, also published a notice of a painting of "la Gioventù rapita dal tempo del Tiepolo" in his family's collection. See Enrico Maria Guzzo, "Francesco Lorenzi a Verona tra Tiepolo e Maffei," in Francesco Lorenzi (1723-1787): Un allievo di Tiepolo tra Verona, Vicenza, e Casale Monferrato, ed. I. Chignola, E. M. Guzzo, and A. Tomezzoli (Verona, 2005), p. 7.

[2] That Baron de Schwiter acquired the painting in Venice is according to the 1886 sale catalogue. He was first denied and then granted an export permit, and took the painting to France around 1866-1867. At this time, the painting was said, in documents held by the Archivio di Stato di Venezia, to have come from the collection of a private family in Verona. See correspondence between Angelica Rudenstine of the MFA and Giuliano Sancassani, Director, Archivio di Stato, Verona (June - July 1962; MFA curatorial files). Sancassani suggested the painting might have come from the Palazzo Orto agli Scalzi.

[3] Henry de Chennevières, Les Tiepolo (Paris, 1898), p. 114.

Credit Line

Charles Potter Kling Fund