I too was fascinated by the Fontanas, there was Prospero Fontana (1512-1597) who painted “The Deposition”. He was definitely male, but was progressive and encouraged his daughter to follow him into painting.
She was Lavinia Fontana (1552-1614), who the famous art teacher from the School of Bologna (Patzer 2013) trained as an artist. This was considered radical for the time. ‘In fact, Fontana is regarded as the first woman artist, working within the same sphere as her male counterparts, outside a court or convent’ (NMWA).
While Michelangelo painted the ceiling at the Sistine Chapel, she and other women painters were breaking the glass ceiling. Women were encouraged to be creative, in those times, but only by doing fancywork, which never has the reputation as one of the fine arts. Other Donna Artiste from the Renaissance include Sofonisba Anguissola and Artemisia Gentileschi.
‘Renaissance painter Lavinia Fontana was commissioned to make not only portraits, the typical subject matter for women painters, but also religious and mythological themes’ (NMWA). She made a name for herself painting portraits in Bologna and her fame later spread to Rome, where even two Popes appreciated her work (Patzer 2013). This may explain many of her religious themes. Her husband was Gian Paolo Zappi, to whom she was married in 1577, and he later became her agent.
She is an inspiration to all women who pick up a paintbrush, even today.
“Lavinia Fontana” (2014) National Museum of Women in the Arts. Retrieved from: https://nmwa.org/explore/artist-profiles/lavinia-fontana
Patzer, Mirella (2013) Lavinia Fontana. History and Women. Retrieved from: http://www.historyandwomen.com/2013/02/lavinia-fontana.html
The Editors (2016) Lavinia Fontana. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lavinia-Fontana