The Renaissance family portrait served a nobler role than a simple work of art. It functioned instead as a representation of history, a preservation of legacy, a record of lineage, and/ or a documentation of relationships. It could be memorializing or celebratory, or it could feign to be so while carrying a much grimmer and more pointed message. Lavinia Fontana’s 1584 Portrait of the Gozzadini Family (Fig. 1), commissioned by Laudomia Gozzadini in Bologna, exemplifies the latter. The patroness herself sits dressed in red with her sister Ginevra, who was deceased at the time. Between them sits their father Ulisse, also deceased, and at the fringes stand Laudomia’s husband, Camillo, and Ginevra’s husband, Annibale.1 To a casual eye, the purpose of this painting seems mundane: to celebrate the marriages and to honor relatives post mortem. However, to dismiss this work as a simple commemoration of the double marriage and a tribute to the conjugal bond would be to miss the nuances of the painting, which tell a far more discordant story.
Emily Fedor, Amherst College
"Subversion, Self-Determination, and the Portrait of the Gozzadini Family,"
The Compass: Vol. 1
, Article 5.
Available at: https://scholarworks.arcadia.edu/thecompass/vol1/iss6/5