Mini Biography: Lavinia Fontana

Lavinia Fontana
Birth: August 24th, 1552
Death: Aug. 11th, 1614
Nationality: Italian
Movement: Mannerism

Born in Bologna in northern Italy, Fontana received her art education from her father and became well known for portraiture and devotional work. She married a young, poor, noble named Paolo Zappi when she was about 25 years old and he managed their large household, which included 11 children,and served as her assistant. She was called to Rome in 1603 by Pope Clement VIII and commissioned to paint an altarpiece for a pilgrimage church in San Paolo. The large piece depicted the stoning of St.Stephen and was destroyed in a fire in the first half of 1823. A few years before Fontana’s death a bronze portrait medallion with her in profile was made by a sculptor named Cassoni to honor her contributions.

Some of her notable works include:

Christ with the Symbols of Passion (1576)


Fontana, Lavinia. Christ with the Symbols of Passion, 1576, El Paso Museum of Art.

Self-Portrait at the Clavichord with a Servant (1577)


Fontana, Lavinia. Self-Portrait at the Clavichord with a Servant, 1577, Accademia di San Luca, Rome.


Portrait of a Noblewoman (1580)


Fontana, Lavinia. Portrait of a Noblewoman, 1580, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC.


For more information on Fontana and her work visit:

National Museum of Women in the Arts

Uffizi Gallery Museum

Encyclopædia Britannica