The scene depicts the wood nymph Pomona, protector of gardens, orchards and fruit in her garden beside her suitor, the god Vertumnus. The god appeared to Pomona in many guises in an attempt to woo her but on each occasion he was rejected. He appeared as a reaper, fisherman and finally as an old woman. Vertumnus was at last successful in winning Pomona's confidence, when, as an old woman, he suggested that like the vine supported by the elm, Pomona should consent to unite with someone. Pomona accepted the advice and at this point Vertumnus appeared as his true self - a handsome youth.
Michel Corneille père, founder of a Paris-based family of artists of that name, trained in the studio of Simon Vouet in Paris, marrying the daughter of the sculptor Jacques Sarazin in 1636. With Eustache Le Sueur, François Perrier and other artists in the capital, in 1648 he would become a founding member of the Académie Royale. Although the influence of Vouet is strong in much of his work, he was also capable of surprising stylistic departures, for example his Esau and Jacob of 1630 (Orléans, Musée des Beaux-Arts), which has been described as having 'the realism of what is in effect a genre scene with an entirely imaginative basis [which] relates it to the Flemish followers of Caravaggio, for example Pieter Lastman or the Pynas family, although as a whole the work recalls that of the Le Nain brothers' (N. Parmantier-Lallement, in J. Turner, ed., The Dictionary of Art, VII, p. 863). Some of that Northern quality is evident in the present work, whose tonality and composition, especially the placement of the figures within the picture rectangle, resonates with the influence of the Le Nains - but here transposed from a small scale, intimate genre subject, to a large scale mythological histoire.