Lot 2
  • 2

Lavinia Fontana

60,000 - 80,000 USD
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  • Lavinia Fontana
  • Portrait of a girl, in a pink embroidered dress, wearing a coral necklace
  • oil on metal


Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 10 July 1998, lot 66;
Anonymous sale ("Property from a Private Collection"), New York, Sotheby's, 27 May 2004, lot 101;
There purchased by the present collector.


The following condition report has been provided by Karen Thomas of Thomas Art Conservation LLC., 336 West 37th Street, Suite 830, New York, NY 10018, 212-564-4024, info@thomasartconservation.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This exquisitely detailed portrait is in excellent condition, with minimal restoration to address a few tiny losses in the face, a portion of the shadow under the chin, and minor defects around the perimeter. The shadows of the ear are slightly reinforced with restoration. Restoration is slightly discolored but the varnish is not significantly discolored and imparts an even gloss. The support has a mild concave lateral warp.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Lavinia Fontana was trained by her father, Prospero, who was one of the leading painters in their native city of Bologna.  She followed his Mannerist style, producing religious compositions both as large altarpieces and as small, highly finished paintings for private devotion.  By the late 1570s, Lavinia had become established as a portrait painter and it is this genre for which she is most famous today.

This portrait of a young girl is a wonderful example of Lavinia’s depictions of children, at which she was particularly adept.  As the mother of eleven children herself, she painted them with ease and naturalism, imbuing them with immense charm.  The sitter, here, is a rather serious young girl, perhaps on the brink of womanhood.  She wears a beautiful rose colored, embroidered gown and a coral necklace, an ancient talisman to protect children from evil influences.  The artist’s vivid attention to detail can be seen in the delicately painted lace collar and jewels adorning her hair.

Stylistically, this portrait appears to date from the early to mid-1580s.  It is similar to a number of portraits of this period such as the Portrait of a girl with a dog (Hopetoun House, South Queensferry, Scotland, dateable to 1583-4) and Portrait of a young woman (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, dateable to 1580-85).1  The latter, in fact, provides an interesting comparison to the present work, despite its damaged state.  Both portraits are small tondi and the figures are similarly placed within the circular space.  The neutral backgrounds with heavy shadowing give an overall sense of depth to both portraits.


1.  See M.T. Cantaro, Lavinia Fontana Bolognese “pittora singolare,” Milan 1989, p. 133, cat. no. 4A 38, reproduced; and p. 143, cat. no. 4a 56b, reproduced.