Time Uncovering Truth

Artist or maker:
Natoire, Charles-Joseph (b.1700, d.1777)
c 1745
dated stylistically
Place of production:
Paris, France
oil on canvas
Type of object:
Accession number:


The ancient theme of 'Veritas filia temporis', meaning truth will be revealed with the passing of time, was explored by Charles Natoire in this overdoor painting. Drawing on other paintings from the 17th and 18th century, the artist emphasised the masculine power of Time. Provenance evidence indicates that Natoire made more than one canvas with this composition.

The format of this painting indicates it is an overdoor painting. The airy subject matter suited this part of the room's decoration. It could have been executed for an interior scheme of mythological lunettes similar to that Natoire painted for the Hôtel de Soubise, Paris, in 1737.

The work has been identified as that in the sales of the dilettante and food critic Grimod de la Reynière held in 1793 and 1797. The size given is slightly smaller - (Haut. 36 pouc. larg. 48), but the rest of the description matches this painting exactly. However, there was another canvas with a very similar description that passed through the Paris sale rooms in 13 December 1780, in an anonymous sale, and on 24 April 1786, sold by Jacques Langlier, that has much more similar dimensions: (Hauteur 42 pouces, Largeur 56 pouces). This indicates that Natoire painted more than one canvas with this same, or a very similar, composition.

'Veritas filia temporis', literally Truth is the daughter of Time, had been revived by Italian Renaissance poets like Pietro Aretino to represent their own ability to uncover the truth about people in power. The subject continued to be popular with painters in the 17th and 18th centuries. The great 17th century painter, Nicolas Poussin, painted two versions of this subject in 1639 and 1641, the latter for Cardinal Richelieu (now in the Louvre, Paris). Natoire differs from Poussin versions by making Time a much more commanding presence. In Poussin's Louvre canvas, Truth's outstretched limbs detracts from the figure of Time. In Natoire's composition, Truth can rest easy under the protection of the strident force of a strong paternalistic Time. The weak figures of Calumny and Envy or Discord are banished to the edges of the composition.

Charles Natoire was a pupil of François Lemoyne, along with François Boucher. He won the Prix de Rome in 1721, a competition run by the French Royal Academy for a bursury to study in Rome. Here, he was influenced by the paintings of Raphael and Pietro da Cortona. He returned to France in 1728. He worked for the crown and nobility designing tapestries and making paintings to decorate ceilings and panelling, including of mythological scenes. He became a member of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1734. From 1751 to 1775 he was Director of the French Academy in Rome. He never returned to France.

At some point, Natoire copied his master's rendition of the subject painted in 1737 (see François Lemoyne, 'Le Temps délivrant la Vérité' Abbeville, musée Boucher de Perthes, inv. 2011.0.6). Lemoyne shows Time carrying Truth and defeating Calumny with the foot of his scythe. Natoire's composition is quite different in tone, rejecting the sense of a fierce battle between the forces of Time and Discord. Natoire's commanding figure of Time is similar, though in reverse, to Jean-François de Troy's example of 1733, now in the National Gallery, London (NG6454). De Troy was the Director of the French Academy in Rome from 1738. Unlike de Troy, Natoire used only a limited number of characters, as Poussin had done in his earlier compositions.

There is reputed to have been a companion painting once in the collection of the Duc de Noailles.

Phillippa Plock, 2011

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
1143 x 1527 (oval canvas)
1120 x 1430 - sight
Signature & date:
not signed or dated
verso, on metal brackets attaching canvas to frame


Possibly in the sale of Jacques Langlier, 24 April 1786, Paris, size similar; or possibly owned by Laurent Grimod de la Reynière (b.1734, d.1793) although size is smaller; possibly in the Grimod de la Reynière sale conducted by Jean-Baptiste Lebrun, Paris, 3 April 1793, for 600 livres and retired; possibly sold in the Grimod de la Reynière sale, conducted by Alexandre-Joseph Paillet, Paris, 7 September, for 150 FF, to unknown buyer; acquired by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (b.1839, d.1898); inherited by his sister Alice de Rothschild (b.1847, d.1922); inherited by her great-nephew James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); accepted by The Treasury Solicitor in lieu of taxes on the Estate of Mr James de Rothschild in 1963; given to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1990.
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Waddesdon Manor, 1990



Ellis Waterhouse, Anthony Blunt; Paintings: The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; Fribourg; Office du Livre, The National Trust; 1967; p. 264, cat. no. 121, ill.
Colin B. Bailey; Patriotic Taste: Collecting Modern Art in Pre-Revolutionary Paris; New Haven; Yale University Press; 2002; p. 226

Indexed terms