Tiepolo’s contemporaries certainly appreciated his ability to portray great allegorical scenes celebrating the virtues and merits of his patrons with clear formal elegance and a highly sophisticated pictorial language. It is hardly surprising that most of the Venetian painter’s work, whether frescoes or on canvas, was oriented towards historical or mythological subjects with evidently moralistic or eulogistic significance.
It depicts Time, shown — according to the rules of iconography dictated by Cesare Ripa in his highly successful manual entitled Iconologia which was published in the late 16th century and many times revised and republished — as an old winged and bearded man armed with a scythe, seen in the act of crushing a serpent under his foot. Time is unveiling Truth, the naked woman (literally “devoid of veils”) who holds the globe of the sun in her left hand, and the palm in her right. The two main figures, softly resting on a great brownish cloud against a most luminous sky, are crowned by the usual host of flying putti, one of which, at Time’s feet, holds an hourglass, another of his symbols. Defeated by Truth, Lies — a horrible-looking old hag — can be seen on the right tumbling down from the clouds. She is dressed in a dark-green cape and transparent veils which partially reveal her hideous body. It is thus clear that the subject for this ceiling was designed to exalt the honesty of the patron.