Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits


THEODOR VAN THULDEN (Den Bosch 1606 – Den Bosch 1669)

Time Revealing Truth

signed in the lower right on the book: T V T

oil on canvas

58 ¾ x 42 ½ inches        (149.3 x 107.8 cm.)


Possibly identical to the painting ‘Daer de Tyd de Waerheyd ontdekt, van Theodoor van Tulden’ (Where Time discovers Truth, by Theodoor van Thulden), sale Amsterdam May 6, 1716, Lot 9, ƒ 90, [1]

Art Market, France, 1950’s where acquired by

Private Collection, California and thus by descent to the present time


Theodoor van Thulden received his education in Antwerp in 1621/22 under the little known Abraham van Blyenberch (before 1600?-after 1622?). In 1626 Van Thulden was registered as a ‘master painter’ with the same guild. In 1635 he married Maria van Balen, daughter of the painter Hendrick van Balen and godchild of Peter Paul Rubens. The following year Van Thulden acquired citizenship in Antwerp. [2]2

Generally Theodoor van Thulden is listed as one of the followers of Rubens, although he was not his pupil. But he was one of the many painters who apparently could not evade the influence of the greatest master of the Flemish Baroque. Together with Jacob Jordaens, Cornelis de Vos and Jan Boeckhorst among others, Van Thulden was asked by Rubens to paint the decorations for the triumphal entry of archduke Ferdinand of Austria into Antwerp in 1635. This Pompa Introïtus Ferdinandi consisted of a number of large sized paintings that were installed in different spots throughout the town. The central theme was to honor the glorious deeds of the archduke and the Habsburg dynasty. The paintings were unveiled during the tour of Ferdinand of Austria through Antwerp.  Nearly all of these paintings have been lost, but because the town magistrates of Antwerp commissioned Van Thulden to engrave the works their images are recorded and were published in 1642.  In 1636 Rubens asked Van Thulden to participate in another large scale project, that was for the Torre de la Parade, a hunting pavilion in Madrid that was decorated with a large number of hunting scenes. During the 1630s and early 1640s he painted several altarpieces for churches in Antwerp. In the same period he made numerous drawings and prints.

In 1643 Theodoor van Thulden returned to his native Den Bosch , a minor art center, certainly compared with Antwerp and Brussels. The artist’s fame was well established and so the apparent remoteness did not stop him from receiving important commissions. For the Town Hall of Den Bosch he painted three large allegorical paintings (1646/1650). For churches in Antwerp and Paris he made important altarpieces. He was asked to make a grand contribution to the decoration of the so-called Oranjezaal Palace in Huis ten Bosch in The Hague. No less than six paintings were made by him between 1648 and 1651. Other painters who worked for the Oranjezaal came from Antwerp, like Jacob Jordaens, Gonzalez Coques and Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert. An equal part was done by painters from the Dutch Republic, including Gerard van Honthorst, Salomon de Bray and Ceasar van Everdingen. Late in his career Van Thulden made the designs for three stained glass windows for the cathedral of Saint Michael in Brussels (1656/1663). A late commission came from the elector Fredrik William of Brandenburg, who contracted the painter to make two large allegories, representing the Peace of Oliva (1660) and the Siege of Magdeburg (1666). These paintings were hung in the elector’s Alte Schloss in Potsdam near Berlin, where they were destroyed during World War II.

Van Thulden generally painted history, mythological and allegorical scenes, as well as portraits. The extent of his oeuvre consists of a total of 170 works of art. He is representedin major museum collections, like the Prado in Madrid, the Louvre in Paris and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Several of his paintings are still in situ, in the churches or palaces for which they were painted.

The painting Time Revealing Truth was rightly attributed to Theodoor van Thulden by Julius Held. He also correctly suggested a date circa 1650. [3]  The subject is a well-known theme in mythological literature and it also has proverbial significance. It was described by the Greek poet Menandros (342-291 B.C.) and became better known due to Andreas Alciatus (Emblemata 1542, 1602) and Cesare Ripa (Iconologia 1593, 1603). The book by the latter was translated into Dutch by Dirck Pietersz Pers in 1644, [4] and was widely used by artists.

Chronos, god of Time, places the naked figure of Truth before the sun. By this means Truth is shown in full light and it is clear that she has nothing to hide. Many artists have chosen this scene as the subject of a work of art. [5]4 Van Thulden shows Chronos as an old man with two wings attached to his shoulders. These refer to the swiftness of Time. He takes away a red and golden cloth from Truth and thus reveals her nakedness. The naked body of the young woman is beautifully rendered. In her hand she holds a sun, her traditional attribute. On the title-page of the book behind her is a text that is partly visible. In my opinion it must be read as: Sol et Tempus, Veritas Detegunt (Sun and Time, Reveal Truth). Beneath the woman lies a mask. This symbolizes the lies that are overcome by Truth. [6] The pillar behind refers to perseverance and honor, whereas the demolished pillar in the background on the left symbolizes transience and mortality. [7]

The artist executed another work with a similar subject that is however different in its iconography. It is a painting done in 1657 (now in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg) after a drawing in London (Victoria and Albert Museum). It shows how the naked Truth is liberated by Chronos. He rescues her from Envy and Foolishness, who are both represented as allegorical figures. [8]

Dr. Paul Huys Janssen



[1] G. Hoet & A. Terwesten, Catalogus of Naamlyst van schildereyen, met derzelver pryzen, zedert een langen reeks van jaaren zoo in Holland als op andere plaatzen in het openbaar verkogt, 3 vols., The Hague, 1752-70, vol. 1, p. 194.

[2] On his life and work, see A. Roy, Theodoor van Thulden, Een zuidnederlandse barokschilder, Un peintre baroque du cercle de Rubens, Zwolle/Den Bosch/Strasbourg 1991; and P. Huys Janssen, ‘Theodoor van Thulden’, in Meesters van het Zuiden, Barokschilders rondom Rubens, Ghent/Den Bosch, 2000, pp. 85-117.

[3] In 1962 this painting was viewed by Julius Held who dated it to circa 1650 and put forth the attribution to Theodoor van Thulden.  During the same period his wife Ingrid Held an art conservator cleaned the work.

[4] C. Ripa, Iconologia of uytbeeldinghe des verstands, Amsterdam, 1644, pp. 589-591 sub voce ‘Verita, Waerheyt’.

[5] A. Pigler, Barockthemen, Eine Auswahl von Verzeichnissen zur Ikonographie des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts, 3 vols., Budapest, 1974, vol. 2, pp. 524-527.

[6] Ripa, p. 309 sub voce ‘Bugia, Logen’.

[7] Ripa, p. 204 sub voce ‘Sublimita della Gloria, Hoogheyt van Eere’.

[8] Roy, 56.

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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