www.whyville.net Sep 16, 1999 Weekly Issue

Lavinia Fontana

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Have you noticed that the streets of Myville are all named after famous scientists and artists from the Renaissance? In case these folks aren't so famous to you, you might want to follow along with this series of articles, and get to know the person on whose street you're living.

by Lois Lee
Times Staff

Lavinia Fontana (1552 - 1614) was surprisingly successful for a woman artist of the Renaissance period. She made over 100 documented paintings, and, more importantly, she expanded the variety of work for women painters by being hired for her religious and mythological works as well as the usual portraits. She created complicated, large-scale scenes, a task that had been previously left to male artists. Today, she is best known for the careful details in the portraits she made. Critics feel that her attention to the clothing and jewelry of her sitters reveal fascinating insights to their personalites.

Taught by her father, Prospero, in the encouraging environment of Bologna, Italy, Lavinia first became famous for her portraits of local noblewomen. In her married life, Lavinia lived a curious role reversal -- her husband did most of the household work and confined his art to painting in the backgrounds and frames of Lavinia's work. Probably the most impressive aspect of her professional life is that in 1563 she was asked to become painter to the Pope!

To find out more about Lavinia Fontana, visit this website from the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

This painting, made in 1580, is titled Portrait of a Noblewoman


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