Vertumnus was a Roman garden god, probably of Etruscan origin, with no Greek equivalent. He could change his form at will. Pomona was a wood nymph, a goddess of fruitful abundance, she too without a Greek counterpart. Together they had a festival on August 13th, the Vertumnalia.

In book XIV of his Metamorphoses, Ovid tells the story how Vertumnus gained entry to Pomona’s orchard by disguising himself as an old woman. Then he seduced her by telling her the story of Anaxarete, who refused the advances of a shepherd named Iphis, remained unmoved even when he hanged himself on her doorpost and was turned into a stone statue for her cruelty.

The story of Vertumnus and Pomona thus gave an artist the opportunity to paint an old and a young woman together, if he wanted. Not all did. Those that did were remarkably often from the Netherlands, as in this case Caesar van Everdingen, who made another painting on the same subject later.

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