Lavinia Fontana

First Woman to Paint a Female Nude

Apollo and the Muses, by Lavinia Fontana

Born in Bologna, Lavinia Fontana (1552-1614) was one of the most popular Italian portrait painters of her time, and reputedly the first woman to paint the female nude. Her father and teacher, Prospero Fontana, had been known for his portraits, a skill inherited by his daughter, who portrayed the Bolognese elite in an elegant, highly-polished Mannerist style, influenced by Ludovico Carracci and Sofonisba Anguissola.

Fontana married Paolo Zappi and had 11 children. In 1603, she moved to Rome, and continued her career with great success, even gaining a commission to paint Pope Paul V. Her works in Bologna include several in the Pinacoteca, in the Chapel of St Dominic of San Domenico and the Galleria Davia Bargellini.

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