Monday, February 21, 2011

Lavinia and Mona

LACMA has acquired Lavinia Fontana’s The Holy Family with Saint Catherine (1581). The painting had been in an unnamed “Swedish religious institution” before it was auctioned in Stockholm last November. Like most of the museum’s big-ticket European paintings, it’s a gift of the Ahmanson Foundation.

Fontana was the daughter of a minor artist, Prospero Fontana. Her first documented work was a portrait of a then-famous “Monkey Child” (1575) born with unusual facial hair. Fontana used the odd painting as a calling card to build a career as a successful artist who competed against the men while raising 11 children (!).

Lucky for her that she was born into a painting family, was trained by her father and lived in a city which supported artists. She also had a supportive husband, Giano Paolo Zappi (a painter also) helped with the kids. By the way, Fontana was also a renowned beauty and an accomplished musician, as her Self-Portrait at the Clavichord (1577) reminds visitors to Rome’s Accademia Nazionale di San Luca.

Fontana was from Bologna and thus the new painting, made in that city, builds on LACMA’s notable holdings of that school. The Holy Family is two generations earlier than the museum’s great Domenichino and two Guido Renis of the 1620s. Fontana spent the latter part of her career in Rome, where she seems to have been more popular with connoisseurs than the more problematic Caravaggio.

Thank you Germaine..
How many experts does it take to prove Mona Lisa was not a man with implants?

Mona Lisa has been securely identified by Vasari as Lisa Gherardini, wife of the Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo, and the portrait as the one in the possession of François I now in the Louvre. It was assumed that the picture was painted in Florence after Leonardo returned from his travels with Cesare Borgia in 1503 and before he went back to Milan in 1506. The assumption was verified in 2005 when a librarian at the University of Heidelberg, preparing a copy of the 1477 edition of Cicero's Epistoles ad Familiares for an exhibition, came upon a marginal note by Agostino Vespucci comparing Leonardo with Apelles, in which he notes that Leonardo was then working on a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo. The note is dated 1503. (more in her unique fashion at the Guardian)


A Cuban In London said...

Oh, you read the GG's article, too! How funny. I was just about to leave you the link. This is GG at the top of her game. Great feature.

Greetings from London.

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard that, I've been researching Mona Lisa and came across this neat animation with some facts. My favorite is the "flying rocks" story.