This painting illustrates the tale of Vertumnus and Pomona, taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The meeting between the two figures takes place in Pomona’s garden.
Vertumnus was a Roman god of the seasons, gardens and fruit trees who was enamoured with Pomona, a beautiful wood nymph who dedicated herself to cultivating her orchard and rejecting all potential suitors. He disguised himself as an old woman in order to gain entry to Pomona’s orchard and sought to convince her to choose the youthful and handsome deity Vertumnus. He then transformed and revealed himself in his true form to woo her.
This work offers a remarkable example of the production of the second generation of Neoclassical painters, as they turned towards subjects that were more poetic and anacreontic.
The pomegranates on the left next to Pomona symbolised fertility in Ancient Greece and Rome. It had a strong association to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and female sexuality.
We see lying discarded on the ground the mask and staff that Vertumnus used to deceive her with.
Moench was the son of a Swabian painter Simon Frederic Moench who worked on the decorations of the Opéra and other theatres in Paris. The younger Moench was also a well-know stage designer but also a portraitist, historical and landscape artist.
He studied under Girodet and became a painter of portraits and landscapes, earning him decorative work for the duc d’Orléans. The influence of Girodet’s crsytalline style can clearly be seen in his present painting. A number of his works commissioned by the duc can still be seen in the Galerie de Diane and the Salles des Gardes at Fontainebleau.
In addition, he restored paintings for the chapel of Versailles, and collaborated with his brother, August, on the decorations of the Salle de Clarac at the Louvre; he exhibited regularly at the Salon until 1861.