Title

Only in Bologna: Lavinia Fontana’s Self-Portrait at Clavichord

Description/Abstract/Artist Statement

Lavinia Fontana has long been regarded as one of the foremost female artists of the Italian Renaissance and Baroque era, owing largely to her lengthy and successful career as a portraitist for wealthy families. However, the most likely genesis of her illustrious career tends to be brushed past in her histories: the awkward yet clever Self-Portrait at Clavichord. Traditionally, this painting has been seen as nothing more than a simple self-portrait painted from a mirror. This paper argues that the Self-Portrait functions beyond reproducing the artist’s features. It is at once an advertisement, a dowry, and bold self-promotion. First, it exists as an advertisement of her unmarried status to the Bolognese academics for which it was intended. When her marriage to Gian Paolo Zappi was finalized without a dowry, the painting then took the place of a dowry and served as a promise that their marriage and his subsequent move to Prospero Fontana’s studio would be a worthwhile investment. We can also see the Self-Portrait as an advertisement to Fontana’s eventual customers, the wealthy and powerful women of Bologna for whom she spent most of her life painting. Finally, this painting is a bold, intentional comparison to the reigning female painter of the time, Sofonisba Anguissola. In this fashion, Fontana’s Self-Portrait at Clavichord is not a simple self-portrait, but a brilliant piece of advertising and self-promotion, ensuring her status as a competent portraitist, a clever painter, and a woman worthy of respect and admiration.

Presenting Author Name/s

Dee Moses

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Anne Muraoka

College Affiliation

College of Arts & Letters

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Disciplines

Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture

Session Title

Art History 2: Identity and Society

Location

Zoom Room L

Start Date

3-20-2021 11:00 AM

End Date

3-20-2021 11:55 AM

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Mar 20th, 11:00 AM Mar 20th, 11:55 AM

Only in Bologna: Lavinia Fontana’s Self-Portrait at Clavichord

Zoom Room L

Lavinia Fontana has long been regarded as one of the foremost female artists of the Italian Renaissance and Baroque era, owing largely to her lengthy and successful career as a portraitist for wealthy families. However, the most likely genesis of her illustrious career tends to be brushed past in her histories: the awkward yet clever Self-Portrait at Clavichord. Traditionally, this painting has been seen as nothing more than a simple self-portrait painted from a mirror. This paper argues that the Self-Portrait functions beyond reproducing the artist’s features. It is at once an advertisement, a dowry, and bold self-promotion. First, it exists as an advertisement of her unmarried status to the Bolognese academics for which it was intended. When her marriage to Gian Paolo Zappi was finalized without a dowry, the painting then took the place of a dowry and served as a promise that their marriage and his subsequent move to Prospero Fontana’s studio would be a worthwhile investment. We can also see the Self-Portrait as an advertisement to Fontana’s eventual customers, the wealthy and powerful women of Bologna for whom she spent most of her life painting. Finally, this painting is a bold, intentional comparison to the reigning female painter of the time, Sofonisba Anguissola. In this fashion, Fontana’s Self-Portrait at Clavichord is not a simple self-portrait, but a brilliant piece of advertising and self-promotion, ensuring her status as a competent portraitist, a clever painter, and a woman worthy of respect and admiration.