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Lavinia Fontana (August 24, 1552 – August 11, 1614) was an Italian painter.She is regarded as the first woman artist, working within the same sphere as her male counterparts, outside a court or convent.Lavinia Fontana was born in Bologna, the daughter of the painter Prospero Fontana, who was a prominent painter of the School of Bologna at the time and served as her teacher.

Her earliest known work, "Monkey Child", was painted in 1575 at the age of 23.

Though this work is now lost, another early painting, Christ with the Symbols of the Passion, painted in 1576, is now in the El Paso Museum of Art. Early in her career, she was most famous for painting upper-class residents of her native Bologna, notably noblewomen.

Even as her gender may have hindered her career in a society less accustomed to female artists, it may have made women more comfortable sitting for her.

Her relationships with female clients were often unusually warm; multiple women who sat for portraits painted by Fontana, such as the Duchess of Sora Constanza Sforza Boncompagni, later served as namesakes or godmothers for her children.

Fontana married Paolo Zappi (alternately spelled Paolo Fappi) in 1577.

She gave birth to 11 children, though only 3 outlived her.

After marriage, Fontana continued to paint to support her family.

Zappi took care of the household and served as painting assistant to his wife, including painting minor elements of paintings like draperies.

Fontana and her family moved to Rome in 1603 at the invitation of Pope Clement VIII.

She gained the patronage of the Buoncompagni, of which Pope Gregory XIII was a member.

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