Lavinia Fontana

Portrait of a lady with a dog

Portrait of a lady with a dog by Lavinia Fontana

Artwork Detail

This portrait has recently been reattributed to Lavinia Fontana, who was much in demand as a portrait painter at the end of the sixteenth century. She trained alongside Agostino Carracci in her father Prospero's studio in Bologna, although she was forbidden to enrol in the Academy because of its focus on drawing from the nude. Portrait of a Lady demonstrates Fontana's painterliness, her mastery of the depiction of lace and jewellery, and her intuitive understanding of structure and form, which she derived from observing antique statuary. In her treatment of the hands, there is little sense of the bone structure beneath the skin. The lap dog was a popular symbol of marital fidelity in portraits of the period; an essential quality in a good wife. The main focus of such portraits was not so much to produce a 'living likeness', but to represent the most noble aspects of a person's character. According to the Bolognese noblewoman Lucrezia Marinella, men could win success and honour in many fields, but only ornamentation and dress were available to women as signs of accomplishment. Ironically these items always remained the property of one's father or husband. By rendering them with such care, Fontana served her sitter well. (from The Guide, 2001)

Portrait of a lady with a dog
Lavinia Fontana
Production date
oil on panel
971 x 724 mm
Credit line
Mackelvie Trust Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1956
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
International Art
Display status
On display

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