The Lie said to the Truth, “Let’s take a bath together, the well water is very nice. The Truth, still suspicious, tested the water and found out it really was nice. So they got naked and bathed. But suddenly, the Lie leapt out of the water and fled, wearing the clothes of the Truth.
The Truth, furious, climbed out of the well to get her clothes back. But the World, upon seeing the naked Truth, looked away, with anger and contempt. Poor Truth returned to the well and disappeared forever, hiding her shame. Since then, the Lie runs around the world, dressed as the Truth, and society is very happy…
Because the world has no desire to know the naked Truth.
Painting: Truth Coming Out Of The Well, Jean-Léon Gérome, 1896.
Beginning in the mid-1890s, in the last decade of his life, Gérôme made at least four paintings personifying Truth as a nude woman, either thrown into, at the bottom of, or emerging from a well. The imagery was inspired by an aphorism of the philosopher Democritus, “Of truth we know nothing, for truth is in a well.”
Truth Coming Out of Her Well, Armed with Her Whip to Chastise Mankind was exhibited in the Salon du Champ de Mars of 1896. It has been assumed that the painting was a comment on the Dreyfus affair, but art historian Bernard Tillier argues that Gérôme’s images of Truth and the well were part of his ongoing diatribe against Impressionism.
Jean-Léon Gérôme (11 May 1824 – 10 January 1904) was a French painter and sculptor in the style now known as academicism. His paintings were so widely reproduced that he was “arguably the world’s most famous living artist by 1880.” The range of his oeuvre included historical painting, Greek mythology, Orientalism, portraits, and other subjects, bringing the academic painting tradition to an artistic climax. He is considered one of the most important painters from this academic period. He was also a teacher with a long list of students.