Earth: Vertumnus and Pomona

François Boucher (French, 1703 - 70)

1749. Oil on canvas, 37 3/16 x 53 5/8". 1980.027

François Boucher was a French court painter to Louis XV (1715–74) and a master of the Rococo style. This is one of two existing canvas panels he painted to hang over a door in one of the king’s chateaux. Vertumnus was a mythological god of ripening fruits, who adores Pomona, goddess of the orchard. Here, Vertumnus has disguised himself as an old woman so he can plead his case without being recognized. Initially he fails to win her love, but he wins it later by revealing his true identity. Cupid holds a mask that symbolizes the lover’s disguise, although any eighteenth-century viewer would have recognized the “old woman” as a man because of his large, ruddy hands. The viewer also would have recognized Pomona’s features as those of the king’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour.

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