This 1760 marble work Vertumnus and Pomona by French sculptor Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne is found in the Louvre Museum.
The subject is taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses: the God of Gardens.
Vertumnus, the God of seasons, gardens and fruit trees, could change his form at will. He once fell in love with the beautiful Pomona, a Roman nymph who was skilled in garden culture and care of fruit trees. She’d renounced herself to the extremity of garden periphery only taking care of the fruit trees and was not available to the approaches of men. Knowing her chaste reputation, Vertumnus takes on different forms, to plead his case. He doesn’t resist any gallant to approach and seduce her and by all means through many disguises: that of a fisherman, sailor et al and eventually, Vertumnus succeeds in obtaining accession to Pomona’s orchard to woo her.
He takes the appearance of an old woman. In this guise, he tells Pomona the story of a shepherd named Iphis and a Greek maiden Anaxarete, who refused her suitor and was consequently turned into a stone.
After telling her the story, he removes the mask of the old woman.
At last, when he reveals his true face, Pomona is enthralled by his beauty and reciprocates the love. (that’s some manipulation by Vertumnus, but ok)
Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne’s Vertumnus and Pomona from the 1760s shows the God removing the mask of an old woman, while Pomona looks on.
The scene is a tribute to the love of Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour, that had triumphed in the role of Versailles in Pomona.
My take on the sculpture: When you tear off your mask, you are more beautiful. You win hearts.
Tags: Mythology, Seduction, Greek Mythology, Roman Mythology, Art, Louvre, Sculpture, Artstory, Vertumnus, Pomona