(b. 1494, Pontormo, d. 1557, Firenze)

Lunette fresco

Villa Medici, Poggio a Caiano

Pontormo's early success was crowned by the official commissions he received from the Medici court. He took part in the decoration of the Salone of the Medicean Villa of Poggio a Caiano, a country villa at the foot of Montalbano much favoured by Lorenzo il Magnifico. He received the commission from Ottaviano de' Medici and Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, the future Clement VII. Andrea del Sarto and Franciabigio were also included in the project. The iconographical programme, designed by the historian Paolo Giovio, aimed to evoke the celebrations of the Medici house through a series of episodes drawn from Roman history.

The theme of the lunette fresco by Pontormo is traditionally described as Vertumnus and Pomona, the pictorial representation of the classical myth taken from a story in Ovid's Metamorphosis. This goes back to Vasari, who reported that Pontormo was asked to depict Vertumnus and some figures.

However. Vasari's text is not a description of this fresco. Art historians have nevertheless tried to see Vertumnus and Pomona in the figures of the fresco. In the various attempts at interpretation thus far, each of the three male figures has been identified as Vertumnus, and each of the female ones as Pomona. It could be a possible explanation of the subject that the young woman at right in the upper part of the wall wearing a wreath of stalks of grain and various red flowers is Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships. The naked youth on the left can be identified as Liber, the god of fertility (who had been identified with Bacchus since antiquity).

The four figures at the lower part of the fresco represent the personifications of the Four Seasons, Winter, Autumn, Summer and Spring.

This lunette was painted using only an almost frantic series of sketches as outline. The characters, unusually individualistic for such a work, are shown at various heights in front of a wall above which sprout long and slender fern-like shoots.

Around the oculus of the window are four naked putti: the lower ones are holding the two ends of a festoon of leaves and fruits, while the two above are sitting on large trunks, from which slender laurel branches grow outwards, holding two standards aloft.