Fontana was a sculptor, bronze founder and gem engraver. He was born in Milan and learned gem engraving there, was trained as a sculptor in Rome and from 1570 worked in Palermo with the Sicilian sculptor Vicenzo Gaggini. Fontana returned to Milan in 1574 and was immediately active as a sculptor, producing figures for Santa Maria presso San Celso, working there until 1586. The Kress Collection contains a terra cotta panel after one of these sculptures.
Fontana engraved on rock-crystal during his last period in Milan and his work was equal to that of the members of the Miseroni and Saracchi families who were the principal masters of the craft.
Seven medals are attributed to Fontana, three of them on literary evidence and four on the basis of possible signatures. The problem of identifying the medalist signing Annib and ANN as Fontana, however, is unresolved. That ANNIB was Milanese is made clear by the signature on the medal of Consalvo de Cordoba (1957.14.1038), which probably dates to the governorship of Milan held by the later Consalvo Hernandez de Cordoba, July 1558 to January 1560.
 Middeldorf 1976, 74; NGA 1994, 90.
 A casket presented to the Infanta Isabella, daughter of Philip II of Spain in 1593 is decorated with nine rock-crystal panels which are variously attributed to Fontana and the Saracchi, suggesting a close connection between them (Hayward 1976, 157; Rudolf Distelberger, "Die Sarachi Werkstatt und Annibale Fontana," JbWien 71 (1975), 95-164.
 Habich 1922, 137 and note 138 and G.F. Hill, "Notes on Italian Medals XXVII," BurlM 42 (1923), 44 do not identify the artists as one. Both Fiorio (1996) and Spiriti (1997) conflate the work of Fontana with the medals signed ANNIB and ANN.
[Published in: John Graham Pollard. Renaissance Medals. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. 2 vols. Washington, 2007]