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.