Lavinia Fontana was the first Italian female artist to achieve renown both in Italy and abroad. Though she followed the style of her father, the leading Bolognese mannerist Prospero Fontana, in her depictions of historical scenes, she developed an independent idiom in her portraits. As such, these are typically characterised by a combination of the formality of central Italian models with the naturalistic tendencies of the northern Italian tradition.
The sitter, holding flowers in his hand, stands by a table draped in a heavy red velvet cloth, fringed with gold. On this stands a parade burgonet, plumed with red and white feathers, similar to examples of such helmets typically dating to the last quarter of the sixteenth century (like that, for example, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. no. 22.168). This is decorated with gilded and embossed columns: the distinguishing feature of the arms of the Colonna family.
This work is sold with a letter of expertise from Maria Teresa Cantaro, confirming the attribution on the basis of first hand inspection, and suggesting that the sitter could be Giulio Cesare Colonna, Principe di Carbognano (1602-1681), painted in circa 1612 or 1614, at the end of the Fontana’s life in Rome.