Maybe (just maybe) we will go for a Lavinia Fontana bedroom

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

Lois commented some time back that in the naming of our Watermill bedrooms I’d failed to take account of the contributions of female artists in the Renaissance and Early Modern period in Italy. I succumbed when we created a new guest bedroom a couple of years ago, which we named the Gentileschi, after Artemisia Gentileschi, currently the feminist’s favourite female Florentine.

But I drew the line at Nellie, or to be precise, Plautilla Nelli, an earlier Florentine painter (she was active in the 1500s) “No guest of ours is going to sleep in a Nellie bedroom,” I said.

I have, however, just read a fascinating article on the online Hyperallergic website (https://hyperallergic.com), which might persuade me that any new bedroom we create could be called the Fontana, after Lavinia Fontana. She was Bolognese, not Florentine, as are our other bedroom artists, but I do like her work. That is her lively portrait of the Maselli family, above.

The Hyperallergic article tells me that in the late Renaissance, Bologna boomed with professional women artists, primarily painters. Of the 300 active painters in the city during the 1600s, around 25 were women — more than in any other Italian city. And Lavinia was the most prominent.

Self-portrait in tondo by Lavinia Fontana – Web Gallery of Art

The article says: Lavinia Fontana asked her fiancée to sign an unusual marriage contract before they exchanged rings in 1577. Fontana wouldn’t be providing a dowry, as was customary in her native Italy. Instead, the Bolognese artist committed to financially supporting her husband, as long as they agreed to live under her father’s roof and she could continue painting in her family’s workshop. Her husband agreed. And with good reason: Fontana was a phenomenal success”. 

Lavinia is considered the first professional female artist active in any European city. She competed with male contemporaries on the open art market, and her career helped pave the way for others. You can read more about her by clicking below:

This Self-portrait at the clavichord with a servant is considered her masterpiece:

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

We have no plans at the moment to create a new bedroom, but when we do Fontana’s name will be in the frame! In the meantime, our guests can continue to enjoy the Gentileschi bedroom, along with the Brunelleschi, Donatello, Bronzino, Ghiberti, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, Ghirlandaio and Uccello bedrooms, and the Lippi and Vasari suites.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
The Gentileschi bedroom. Picture: Francesco Lastrucci

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