Vertumnus kisses Pomona
This tapestry, the seventh in the series, used to be joined to the sixth, creating a single composition which represented two scenes related to Vertumnus’ transformation into an old woman. The tapestry in its current form would have been the left-hand half of the original composition, and depicts Vertumnus embracing Pomona. According to Ovid’s text, after only managing to gaze upon the goddess under his different disguises, Vertumnus transformed himself into an old woman and managed to approach and kiss Pomona. As explained in the previous tapestry, the original was divided in 1879, when they were modified to permanently decorate the State Dining Room of the Royal Palace. For the same reason, the inscription in the upper border and left-hand side do not correspond to the current composition.
The bogus old woman
In the original tapestry, before being modified, a Latin inscription in the upper border read: PO[S]TREMO FIT ANVS FALLAX [Finally, he transforms himself into a false old woman]. As Ovid tells in his Metamorphoses (XIV, 650), Vertumnus only manages to approach Pomona when under the guise of an old woman.
As in all the tapestries, Vertumnus’ dress is full of meticulously chosen details. The god wears a rich coat of green velvet, embroidered with golden arabesques and lined with fur. The cloak covering his head and the veil partially cover his face. The outfit has an oriental touch, recalling those of Turkish women; it could also be associated with the outfits worn by Roman figures as disseminated in the collections of prints from the second half of the sixteenth century. The study of the clothing of Vertumnus and Pomons reveals the existence of a repertoire of models which were used for the depiction of textiles in various tapestry series. For example, it is interesting to note that the type of skirt worn by Pomona corresponds to a fabric known as “Lucca fabric”, frequently used in Flemish painting and tapestries. For the design of Pomona’s tunic, the cartoonists made use of a book of Arab-style models, published in several editions by Hieronimus Cock, an artist from Antwerp.
As has been noted already, the architectural extravagance and complexity of the setting becomes clear when putting together the two tapestries. As usual, in the foreground the gods appear beneath a gallery covered with vegetation, here a vine loaded with grapes. Various sculptures are set into the pedestals, decorated with images of grotesques, and they hold up the classical pediments. Monumental and magnificent bowls and baskets full of various plants stand out on top of the railing.
More of Jupiter’s loves
The borders of this seventh tapestry were made up from the borders of the fifth tapestry in National Heritage Series 18. Jupiter and Antiope is the subject of the cartouche at the bottom borders, which – as in the rest of the series – tells of the loves of Jupiter. In the side borders we can identify the transformation of Cyparissus on the left and the myth of Leucothea on the right.
Series Vertumnus and Pomona
Seventh tapestry in the series
Model Circle of Pieter Coeck van Aelst
Manufacture Wilhelm Pannemaker, Brussels, c. 1545-1550
Fabric Gold, silver, silk and wool
Size 430 x 365 cm
Location Royal Palace of Madrid
On display State Dining Room
National Heritage Series 16