The Blind-folding of Truth  —  An Allegory

The Blind-folding of Truth — An Allegory. Tapesty designed by by John Liston Byam Shaw, RI AWRS (1872-1919_ for William Morris & Co. Before 1909 when this work appeared in The Studio.

This tapesty, which has the appearance of many late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century illustrations of fairy tales and children's books, makes an explicity subversive statement about the way the Church, Royalty, and wealthier classes live by what Thomas Carlyle called a Lie, by hiding the truth. Byam Shaw has paid much attention to details of costume, (though perhaps too much a bear of little brain) I don't understand why the man at left is wetting or dyeing what appears to be a winding sheet that will cover Naked Truth. Still, I find something creepily unpleasant about the inexplicably passive figure of truth, one which surely touches upon matters of gender, sexuality, and perversity. Truth is often represented as naked, true, but why has the artist so emphasized her nudity and breasts? Why does such an indictment of the forces of society verve towards pornography. (Political satire long has made use of what today we consider pornographic elements, but those mock the powerful; no such mockery here seems apparent.)

The Invention of Pornography: Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity, 1500-1800. Ed. Lynn Hunt. New York: Zone Books, 1993.

The Studio. 1909. Internet Archive. Digitized from a copy at the University of Toronto.

Last modified 22 December 2010