Vertumnus and Pomona is undoubtedly Jean Ranc’s greatest work. This beautiful painting depicts the effort of the god of gardens and orchards, Vertumnus, to woo the notoriously indifferent goddess of fruit trees, Pomona. Disguised as an old woman, Vertumnus lures Pomona into his trust with the story of a suitor who commits suicide, traumatised by the lack of attention from a beautiful, but intractable woman.
The work was painted by the Montpellier-born artist shortly before his departure for Spain, where he developed a successful, life-long career as a portrait painter. Ranc’s training as a portrait painter is certainly apparent in the delicate treatment of the faces of his subjects and, more so, in the exquisitely rendered fabrics. The painting is also significant for the manner in which it presents a mythological narrative and its moral subtext in an entirely contemporary manner, as indicated in Pomona’s radiant, silky dress and parasol.