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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Lavinia Fontana

b.1552, Bologna, Italy; d. 1614, Rome

Lavinia Fontana, among the first truly professional female artists to operate out of her own urban studio, was the daughter of Prospero Fontana, a leading Mannerist painter of the Bolognese school. Trained by her father, Lavinia was an established portrait painter by 1577. That year she married fellow artist Paolo Zappi, who became her agent and managed the studio. Through eleven pregnancies, Lavinia earned a degree as dottoressa at the University of Bologna (1580) and undertook large-scale public and religious commissions, along with maintaining a busy portrait practice (she was the artist of choice among Bolognese noblewomen). She enjoyed the patronage of a succession of popes and moved to Rome in 1603, where she was admitted to the Academy and remained one of the most prolific women artists prior to 1700.