Lavinia Fontana (Bologna 1552-1614 Rome)
Property of a Private Collection
Lavinia Fontana (Bologna 1552-1614 Rome)

Portrait of a young girl, bust-length

Lavinia Fontana (Bologna 1552-1614 Rome)
Portrait of a young girl, bust-length
oil on metal, circular
4 3/8 in. diameter
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 10 July 1998, lot 66.
Anonymous sale [Property from a Private Collection]; Sotheby's, New York, 27 May 2004, lot 101, where acquired by
Robert M. Edsel; Sotheby's, New York, 30 January 2014, lot 2, where acquired by the present owner.

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Lot Essay

Lavinia Fontana was the first of a number of woman artists in Bologna to achieve both national and international renown. She trained in the workshop of her father, Prospero Fontana, who was himself one of the leading Bolognese exponents of Mannerism. While her depiction of historical scenes is much indebted to her father, through her portraiture, she was able to develop her own independent style, which combined the formality of Central Italian models with the naturalistic tendencies of the North Italian tradition By the late 1570s, she was an established and sought-after portrait painter, whose patrons included the celebrated humanist and historian Carolus Sigonius (c. 1524-1584).
This portrait appears to date to the early to mid-1580s. It is stylistically comparable to several portraits from this period, among them, the Portrait of a girl with a dog (Hopetoun House, South Queensferry, Scotland, datable to 1583-4) and Portrait of a young woman (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, datable to 1580-85; see M.T. Cantaro, Lavinia Fontana Bolognese, Milan, 1989, no. 4A 38 and no. 4a 56b, respectively). This portrait also bears a resemblance to a small, circular self-portrait on copper, signed and dated 1579, in the Uffizi, Florence, and it is tempting to imagine that the present painting could also be a youthful portrait of the artist (ibid., no. 18).
The attribution of Lavinia Fontana has been endorsed by Professor Daniele Benati.


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