Vertumnus and Pomona are two Italian gods, divinities of seasons, changes and ripening of plant life, whose story is told in Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book XIV, Verses 623 - 771. Vertumnus in an attempt to gain favour of the nymph Pomona tried to approach her in many different disguises, but only succeeded when he appeared as an old woman. He pleaded for his own cause but was again rejected. As last attempt he revealed himself in his true shape as a resplendent youthful god and was finally able to conquer Pomona's heart.
History of the Series
The original and extremely popular series illustraiting the story of Vertumnus and Pomona, consisting of nine subjects, were almost certainly designed by Jan Conelisz Vermeyen (1500 - 1559) in circa 1545 while the borders were by Cornelis Bos.
The offered tapestry is a later version and was woven to an altered design in the late 16th or early 17th Century. Interestingly various series that had been designed in the mid-16th Century were put back on the looms around 1700, a time of relative artistic anaemia. Martin Reymbouts (active circa 1570-1619), for example, is recorded having woven such repetitions, including re-edited versions of the Vertumnus and Pomona set. There is another example of such a re-edited version by Jacques I Geubels (active circa 1585-1605) or his widow Catherina van den Eynde (d. 1620s) in Detroit (G.Delmarcel, Flemish Tapestry, Tielt, 1999, pp.305 and 365). Another later version that is in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (C.Adelson, European Tapestry in the Minneapolis Insitute of Arts, Minneapolis, 1994, cat. 14, pp.148) depicts Offerings the the Goddess Ceres and is attributed to a set that is entitle The Garden of Pomona. Four further panels from that set survive (two in the Galleria de Palazzo Bianco, Genova, one in the ING Bank, Brussels, and another in a private collection in Italy), but it appears that the tapestry offered here could not have belonged to the same series. The title as well as surviving examples of the former set imply that the gods do not play an active part in the subjects while both Vertumnus and Pomona are the focal point of this tapestry (Adelson, op. cit., pp. 150-151)
Three sets of the original series after Vermeyen remain in the Spanish Royal Collection, the oldest by Joris Wezeleer was woven for Charles V (d. 1556), while the other are by arguably the best weaver of his time, Willem de Pannemaker (d. 1581) and woven for Philip II (d. 1598) (P.Junquera de Vega and C. Herrero Carretero, Catalogo de Tapices del Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid, 1986, vol.I, cats. 18 and 16 - 17, pp. 123 - 133 and 105 - 122, respectively). Another set, woven concurrently with the first and also for Charles V, is today in Vienna (L. Baldass, Die Wiener Gobelinssammlung, Vienna, 1920, cats. 146 - 154).