The nude painting of \"Truth Coming out Of her Well To dead Mankind\" struck a chord through women online.

You are watching: Truth coming out of her well meme


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Published Jul 31, 2017Updated may 22, 2021, 10:13 afternoon CDT

Like plenty of people, I first saw “Truth Coming the end Of she Well To shame Mankind” ~ above Tumblr. Painted in 1896, it depicts a naked mrs climbing out of (obviously) a well, spring unkempt and also either anguished or enraged. It’s no a specifically famous painting, however it’s become a touchstone in certain corners that the internet.

French artist Jean Léon Gerome portrayed “Truth” staring angrily the end at the viewer, avoiding the sultry coyness of her average historical nude. She looks like she method business, and also intentionally or not, she’s now the 19th century identical of a feminist reaction gif.


Allegorical nudes room a predictably well-known subject throughout western art. They’re a thinly-veiled forgive for guys to paint naked girls, regularly retelling a Greek legend or Biblical tale where part woman’s dress conveniently falls off. You have the right to just imagine Renaissance artists combing through the scriptures to find personalities like Susanna, who attracted the attention of lecherous old guys while bathing, or Lot, who was seduced by his very own daughters and thus provided the opportunity to paint two debauched young ladies at once.

It’s a little risqué to repaint a straightforward nude with no literary subtext, but if the mrs in question is a mythological number or she to represent the abstract concept of Love or Liberty, you’re safe. “Truth” is one such character, but Gerome’s variation is noticeably different from her peers.

At the hazard of lumping together centuries of arts history, allegorical nudes often tend to autumn into two categories: seductive or pure. Depictions of reality belong to the latter type, explained by Milton as “the virgin Truth,” with “a perfect shape most glorious to look on.” (That horny little an allegory was released in a nonfiction text about freedom of speech, by the way.)

There’s a longstanding trope of truth appearing alongside her protector Time, v Truth portrayed as a passively naked woman, and also Time as a scythe-wielding old man. “Truth Coming the end Of her Well To dead Mankind” is usually the the contrary of this image. This vision the Truth is aggressive and un-decorative, making her a lot more relatable 보다 the silent beauty of various other allegorical nudes. Even the painting’s title is badass, suggesting a disgruntled reality dragging herself the end of bed to deal with some mansplainers.

“Truth” got traction top top Tumblr, afford meme status by being extensively memorable. Her popularity complies with a couple of longstanding traditions: critics reinterpreting historic art through the lens of contemporary politics, and internet denizens remixing highbrow art into a type of fandom in-joke. (See also: Tumblr’s obsession v the Edgar Allan Poe quick story The Cask that Amontillado.) In a civilization where women’s body are consistently packaged for male consumption, “Truth” appears reassuringly rebellious, human, and raw.

The painting’s title has been added to picture of the rockstar Laura jane Grace, a cursed photo of a disembodied leg emerging from a toilet, and also screencaps that Sasha Velour from Drag Race. It’s to be repurposed for weird Mario fanart, Wonder mrs gifs, and also Beyonce lyric edits. As it transforms out, the naked truth is how amazing versatile, equally suitable to feminist commentary and also absurdist humor.

Back in 1896, Jean-Léon Gérôme more than likely didn’t intend this paint as a discuss gender. Motivated by a quote indigenous the Greek philosopher Democritus, it may refer to the climb of photography in the late 19th century, allowing “truth” to be seen an ext clearly. Or, it might follow in the footsteps that a comparable painting Gérôme completed the year before, portraying the fight to discover the reality in a famous military scandal at the time.

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Whatever the painting’s original meaning may have actually been, the internet made decision to disregard it with aplomb. The naked fact has re-emerged together a symbol of mrs anger and messiness, and long may she reign.