Considered one of the most important Milanese sculptors of the last quarter of the 1500s, Annibale Fontana began his career working as a medalist and engraver. Active in Milan, his membership in the Accademia della Val di Blenio brought him commissions from patrons of high rank and Milanese intellectuals who appreciated his portrait medallions and rock crystal engravings. These show a sophisticated use of space as Fontana accommodated large, active compositions to small, low-relief objects in metal, rock crystal, and hardstone.
After a visit to Rome, where he probably studied works by Michelangelo and his followers, Fontana traveled to Palermo in 1570. There he carved large-scale marble reliefs for the cathedral. Upon his return to Milan, Fontana began working on the church of Santa Maria presso Santo Celso, the sole source of any of his surviving large-scale sculptural works. Fontana worked there from 1574 to 1587, carving marble statues and reliefs for the façade and statues for the altars. He may even have cast some liturgical objects in silver and bronze. Having transformed his style from his early Mannerism to a more severe classicism, Fontana died in Milan at the age of forty-seven.