This video and article are part of the Female Artist biographical film project described here.

Lavinia Fontana, Self Portrait in Studiolo, Vasari Corridor, Uffizi, Florence
Lavinia Fontana, Self Portrait in Studiolo, Vasari Corridor, Uffizi, Florence

Summary: Lavinia Fontana was born into an artistic and middle class family in Bologna in 1552. Her talent and promise as an artist was recognized early in her childhood, for while Lavinia had numerous brothers, her father Prospero, himself a successful artist in Bolognese society, understood that among his children, it was Lavinia who had inherited his skills as an artist. She is the first female artist to paint nude figures; and she may be one of the first female artists to train apprentices. Lavinia Fontana died in Rome in 1614. Through her unique education, talent, and artistic development, Lavinia Fontana was able to redefine perceptions of female artists, and the potential of a woman’s success and greatness in Renaissance culture.

Authors: Alexandra Goodman, Amy Smoler, Andrew Webster, Blair Hartman, Brenna Crothers

Select Bibliography:
“Fontana, Lavinia.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Accessed: 21 March 2009 [].

Fortunati, Vera. Lavinia Fontana of Bologna 1552-1614 (Milan: Electra, 1998), 13-32.

Fortunati, Vera. Italian Women Artists From Renaissance to Baroque (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 2007).

McIver, Katherine A. “Lavinia Fontana’s “Self Portrait Making Music,” Women’s Art Journal 19 (1998): 3-8.

Murphy, P. Caroline. “Lavinia Fontana,” chapter x in Italian Women Artists From Renaissance to Baroque, ed. Claudio Strinati (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 2007), 165.

Murphy, P. Caroline. “Lavinia Fontana and Female Life Cycle Experience in Late 16th Century Bologna.” Picturing Women in Renaissance and Baroque Italy, eds. Geraldine A. Johnson and Sara F. Matthews Grieco (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

Murphy, Caroline P. “Fontana, Lavini,.” Dictionary of Female Artists, ed. Delia Gaze (London and Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997), 534-537.

Murphy, Caroline P. “Lavinia Fontana and Le Dame della Citta: understanding female artistic patronage in late sixteeth-century Bologna.” Renaissance Studies 10 (1996): 190-208.

Ross, Sarah Gwyneth. “Fontana, Lavinia (1552-1614),” Encyclopedia of Women in the Arts, (Oxford: ABC Clio, 2007), 147-150.

If you liked this film you may also like the students’ take on Elisabetta Sirani.

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