Vertumnus, Allegory of Winter – German School – 17th Century
17th century oil on canvas painting depicting Vertumnus in the form of an elderly woman, allegory of winter. High quality work by an artist of the generation of Ottmar Elliger the Younger (1666-1735). A recent cleaning of this work allowed us to discover what seems to be the corner of a red cape at the bottom right corner. This leads us to believe that at some time in its past this portion of canvas might have been salvaged from a larger painting, the lost portion perhaps corresponding to the representation of Pomona, goddess of fruit trees, gardens and orchards in Roman mythology. The representation of the two characters together was very popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. A wax seal on the back of the canvas bears the coat of arms of the town of Lisieux (Normandy).
Vertumnus, whose name means "to turn, to change", was most likely a king of Etruria who, because of the care which he had taken of his fruit orchard and gardens, became a divinity after his death. What is certain is that his cult passed from the Etruscans to Rome where he was considered the god of gardens and orchards. His attributions differed from those of Priapus: he especially watched over the fertility of the earth, the germination of plants, their flowering and the ripening of fruits.