T-Shirts from the Collection: Truth, Beauty, and a Naked Woman with a Spoon

Everyone’s heard of the Institute for Advanced Study, even if they don’t know much about it.  One day an IAS t-shirt appeared on the rack at Goodwill, and of course I had to have it. I mean, look at the thing:

Institute for Advanced Study Tee 1

The question I had: why was there a naked woman on the t-shirt? And why was she holding a giant spoon?  I emailed the Institute at once.

The IAS is an independent postdoctoral research institute where leading scholars — and flashy up-and-comers — are invited to reside for awhile and pursue whatever theoretical research they prefer in mathematics, physics, economics, and more. The advancement of knowledge for the advancement of mankind: that’s the mandate.

And the Institute is rolling in money.  Snagging Einstein as a permanent fellow in the ‘30s sure didn’t hurt.  So the IAS actually had the time and staff to respond to some rando t-shirt question from the West Coast. In detail.

An IAS archivist solemnly informed me that the design on the tee was the Institute Seal, commissioned upon the institute’s founding in 1930.  With input from the institute’s director, the renowned French medallion designer Pierre Turin produced an Art Deco design of the twin entities of Truth and Beauty holding hands in front of the Tree of Knowledge.  For only Truth and Beauty working together can make the tree bear fruit.  It’s a concept drenched in 19th-century romantic poetry.

Truth and Beauty

That Truth is a naked woman while true Beauty is clothed in artifice, however, is a world view so deeply French that I can barely stand it. Truth holds a mirror to reflect reality back to the world.  It only appears to be a giant spoon. Even on the actual medallion.

I love this shirt. The design is delightfully weird: like peering into the  id of another era.
And I’ve been tempted to wear it around town, which I rarely do with any shirt in my collection.

But sadly, it doesn’t fit.  It may not even fit the IAS anymore.

5 thoughts on “T-Shirts from the Collection: Truth, Beauty, and a Naked Woman with a Spoon

  1. lk

    Maybe I’m a reverse snob, but I wouldn’t have thot that attendees of such a prestigious institute would stoop to wearing t-shirts. A tasteful lapel pin would be more what I’d expect. Glad you could add such a high cultural T to your collection, and sorry it doesn’t fit.

    1. admin Post author

      According to their website, the t-shirts are on sale only five times a year. Trust a highl exclusive institution to make even the t-shirts exclusive! That said, a lot of the fellows are 30ish young punks who are only there for a year or so, so the tees might appeal to them, too. I’m thinking of photoshopping Einstein into one of those tees, though.

      You were thinking of a tee for your bookstore at one point, though: I think a tee with a naked woman and a giant spoon would vaccuum ’em right in the front door!

      1. lk

        I’ll keep that in mind when (and if) we produce a promotional t-shirt. This is our 15th anniversary (coming up on July 1st, or August 1st, depending on whether we count the first set-up month as part of our retail existence) of our book shop. If we’re going to do a shirt, I’m thinking we’ll have to get a move on pretty soon. I have a t-shirt printer neighbor right here in our shopping center, so that part is probably not the hard part. No design for the shirt has been created as of yet. Naked woman with a spoon-like object… hmmmmm… We’ll see.

    2. admin Post author

      Another reply. When you get a chance, I’ve just posted a long articles about tees and politics and the most political-correct t-shirt supplier for Democrats. I really geeked-out on this one.

      Hope things are okay at the shop. Are you drowning in business yet? 😉


      1. lk

        I’ve had a taste of what things might be like if the other book shop closes for good. They were closed for about a week in order for some repairs to be made to the roof and while they were closed, we got a lot more (a LOT MORE) business. Even if they simply relocate, I think my shop will be busier. Makes me think it’s not impossible to make money at this.


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