The present picture is a fine studio replica of the earliest known self-portrait by Lavinia Fontana, painted in 1575 and now preserved in a private Roman collection (M.T. Cantaro, Lavinia Fontana Bolognese 'pittora singolare' 1552-1614, Rome, 1989, no. 4a.7, p. 64). Created as a marriage portrait for her future husband and his family, the picture shows Lavinia attired in an elaborate costume, fine jewelry and attended by a servant, thus emphasizing her wealth and status. The clavichord and painter's easel refer to her accomplishments as an artist and a gentlewoman by birth and breeding, while the Latin inscription at upper left alludes to her virginal state, a key factor in marriage bargains at the time: 'Lavinia the Virgin Daughter of Prospero Fontana depicted herself from a mirror in the year 1575.' Two later versions of the composition, both dated 1577, are known: the first, considered autograph, is in the Accademia San Luca, Rome, and the other, a copy, is in the Uffizi, Florence (ibid., no. 4a. 12, pp. 72-74).
Signature: With signature and inscription 'LAVINIA VIRGO PROSPERI FONTANAE / FILIA EX SPECVLO IMAGINEM / ORIS SVI EXPRESIT' ANNO / MDLXXV' (upper left)
PROPERTY FROM THE DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION OF DRS. SAUL AND MARCIA COHEN
George Granville Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 5th Duke of Sutherland, K.T., P.C. (1888-1963); Christie's, London, 2 May 1958, lot 10, (280 gns. to Appleby, as Lavinia Fontana).
with Julius Weitzner.
Acquired by the father of the present owner, probably in the late 1950s.