Vertumnus transformed into a warrior

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Vertumnus transformed into a warrior
The fourth tapestry of the series shows the sixth transformation of the god of the seasons, Vertumnus, this time into a soldier. In the oldest inventories, this transformation is mentioned after he has transformed into a gardener. (The gardener scene was depicted in what was originally other tapestry, which was probably lost in the fire in the Royal Palace in 1734.) It is difficult to imagine what this tapestry now would have originally looked like, since only a narrow fragment remains. The border belongs to National Heritage Series 18, and was added to frame the fragment when the tapestries were altered to decorate the State Dining Room of the Palace.

Armed with a sword

The upper border, now lost, contained an inscription inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses (XIV, 649): FIT MILES GLADIO (Armed with a sword, he is a soldier). Vertumnus wears Roman military dress, although it is more befitting of a general or emperor than a soldier. The god, crowned with laurel, wears leather armour and a coat covers his shoulders as he makes his way towards Pomona with a spade in his hand. The gods are located in front of a portico which, it seems, carried on each side of the central opening. A red wooden grating closes the garden off, leaving the woods in the distance to be seen.

Beans from the New World

Climbing beans twist around the columns which form the portico and make their way up the entablatures, mixing with the acanthus leaves of the Corinthian capitals. To appreciate the value of the innumerable diversity of plant species growing in Pomona’s garden, we must remember that the creation of these fictitious gardens coincided with the establishment of the first botanical gardens in Europe. The adaptation and acclimatization of the species brought back from explorers at the end of the fifteenth century interested kings and nobles, buit also the rich bourgeois, chemists, doctors and other erudite people who enjoyed horticulture. The various types of beans were new species, only recently discovered and imported from the New World.

Mythological ornaments

The original borders of this tapestry were cut and attached to the sixth tapestry of this same series (National Heritage Series 16). The current borders belonged to Series 18. In the decoration we see two plant transformations inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses: the story of Baucis and Philemon and the story of Clitia.

Series Vertumnus and Pomona

Fourth 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 425 x 258 cm

Location Royal Palace of Madrid

On display State Dining Room

National Heritage Series 16


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