Home Craft StoriesHave You Heard Of? Have you Heard of… Lavinia Fontana
lavinia fontana

Have you Heard of… Lavinia Fontana

by Trudi Murray

Lavinia Fontana

Just before lockdown, I had the idea to make a new series of portraits of different, interesting people we might not have heard of. I decided to call it ‘Have You Heard Of…?’. There are so many people out there, each with their own tale to tell and I, for one, love hearing about other people’s experiences. Stories of lives always inspire me! I drew up a quick list of types of work, interests and cultures, and started to research from there. 

Then, lockdown hit us. 

It was very good for me to have so much work prepared, to dig into and focus on. Each day, after PE with Joe, I travelled to all corners of the globe from my computer, cup of tea in hand, finding out facts and making my illustrations. 

It’s great to be able to share my work now, here on Folksy. Today, I’m asking: Have you Heard Of… Lavinia Fontana – Fashionable Society Painter?

lavinia fontana

Have you heard of painter Lavinia Fontana?

Lavinia Fontana was an artist from Bologna, Italy. [This felt fitting to discover, as my April trip to Bologna, to pitch my book at the Children’s Book Fair, was cancelled by the pandemic, so I imagined the city through Lavinia’s eyes as best I could]. She was born in 1552.

Lavinia’s dad trained her in the Mannerist style of painting – an opulent, sensuous style designed to show off the skill of the artist. And Lavinia was not short of skill – she had it by the bucketful. 

Everybody wanted to be painted by Lavinia. She was very clever at showing off high society ladies in a fashionable way. Clothes, beauty and fashions were superbly captured in their very best light in Lavinia’s stylish portraits. The cachet of such validation, and the expression of one’s wealth and importance, was, I imagine, irresistible.

As Lavinia’s reputation as a career portraitist grew, so did her family. She and husband Gian Paolo Zappi had 11 children, all looked after by Gian Paolo (no doubt the busiest of men) while Lavinia earned the family’s income. He also acted as her agent, and apparently, was sometimes allowed to paint the drapery in the back of her paintings (a detail that makes me chuckle!).

Lavinia sounds fabulous to me. If I could time travel, I’d definitely grab an espresso with her in a Bologna café, and get some tips on how to teach my husband to paint curtains.

Buy Trudi Murray’s postcard of Lavinia Fontana on Folksy >

Shop the entire Have You Heard Of series here >

Read more in the Have You Heard of series >

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