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Martha and Mary
by Lavinia Fontana

05 January 2024

Trained at the school of her father (the painter, Prospero Fontana), Lavinia was a prolific artist, who created both sacred and mythological works. Although she often devoted herself to portraiture, she also tried her hand at altarpieces, a type rarely entrusted to female artists at the time.  The work shown here is from the Conservatorio di Santa Marta in Bologna and shows the episode of Jesus' visit to the house of Martha and Mary in Bethany. The figures in the foreground converse through studied gestures, wrapped in refined clothes and draperies in brilliant colors. The painting is set in monumental architecture, and the scene takes on a courtly and timeless character.

Lavinia Fontana and Prospero Fontana | Christ in the House of Martha and Mary | 1575 - 1599 | oil on canvas | Quadreria of Palazzo Rossi Poggi Marsili | Bologna (Italy)