The Wallace Collection

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Time Saving Truth from Falsehood and Envy
  • François Lemoyne (1688 - 1737)
  • Time Saving Truth from Falsehood and Envy
  • Paris, France
  • 1737
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Object size: 180.5 x 148 cm, with enlargements on all four sides
  • P392
  • Great Gallery
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • The painting is the last masterwork of François Lemoyne, the greatest French history painter of his generation. In 1733-1736, he painted the ceiling of the Salon d'Hercule in Versailles, one of the most ambitious ceiling paintings ever painted in France and the most important Royal commission of the early years of Louis XV. As a consequence, Lemoyne had become First Painter to the King in 1736.

    The naked figure of Truth is held aloft by her father, Time, who with his scythe subdues Falsehood, in her fine apparel and dissembling mask, while the baleful figure of Envy recedes, protesting. Lemoyne has imbued the figures in the dramatic scene with a solid sculptural quality. Originally, this effect was even stronger before the canvas was extended on all four sides. Lemoyne's figures forcefully filled the original space of the painting. Lemoyne was obviously aiming to continue the grand tradition of seventeenth-century history painting in this work, as he had done in his ceiling painting for Versailles. The allegory refers back to paintings by Guido Reni and, possibly also to a garden sculpture by Thomas Regnaudin in Versailles, both masterworks from the seventeenth century. This attempt to continue the tradition of what was perceived as the Grand Siècle became one of the main ambitions of eighteenth-century history painting in France.

    Lemoyne was suffering from severe depression when he was painting the work. The subject may have held a personal significance for the artist; the day after he completed it, he committed suicide. His possible self-perception as a genius suffering from envy and falsehood is not supported by the facts. It is not clear, however, who devised the subject of the allegory. The painting was commissioned by the financier and great collector François Berger who is known to have picked up the work in Lemoyne's studio after the painter's suicide. Berger had been Lemoyne's patron from 1722 and also owned "Perseus and Andromeda", Lemoyne's other work in the Wallace Collection. He commissioned "Time Saving Truth from Falsehood and Envy" as a pendant to the much earlier "Bather", (private collection) painted by Lemoyne for Berger in 1723-1724 and would ultimate have determined the subject. Both works were probably enlarged for the next owner, Etienne Bouret, in c. 1757 to match their size with other works by Lemoyne in the same collection, such as "Perseus and Andromeda". Both Berger and Bouret owned impressive groups of paintings by Lemoyne, an homage to the leading history painter of the early eighteenth century and an early statement in support of contemporary French art among Parisian collectors.