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In 1748, Boucher received a commission from the Director of the Royal Apartments for a set of paintings representing the four elements. Two were completed. "Arion carried on a Dolphin accompanied by Triton and Nereids and other Sea Gods" represented water. This picture of Vertumnus and Pomona surrounded by trees, flowers and fruits, was to illustrate earth.
The story is a rather obscure one which was given its best known form in Ovid's Metamorphises. It concerns two Roman deities: Pomona a nymph who loved to tend her fruit trees and flowers shut herself up in a garden away from all human and divine lovers. Vertumnus, the god of orchards, desired her passionately and tried various ruses to enter her garden. At last, disguised as a very old woman, he is granted admission, where he begins to woo the nymph by praising her beauty and her fruit.
In Boucher's painting, the symbol of deception, through which love achieves its fulfillment, is the mask held by winged Cupid at his feet. Boucher's inspiration for using this story to represent earth in his commission came from a ballet performed at Versailles in January 1749. Boucher was probably the designer of the sets, and Madame de Pompadour played the role of Pomona. Once again, the features of the beautiful nymph are those of Boucher's patron.