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Italian Renaissance Painter Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1625)

Sofonisba Anguissola. Self PortraitSofonisba Anguissola. Self Portrait, 1559


Sofonisba Anguissola was an Italian Mannerist painter of the Renaissance.
Her father, Amilcare Anguissola, a nobleman and a connoisseur of art, supported her in her pursuit of a painter career. He saw to the education of all his 6 daughters and a son. Three of Sofonisba's younger sisters were also known as painters, but to a lesser degree.
However, the family's fanances state was not so good, and, probably, the artist's father encouraged her professional career partly in hope that she would be able to help restore the family resources. Indeed, later Sofonisba supported her family in Cremona with part of her salary from the Spanish court. She assisted her brother Asdrubale after their father's death and gave him an annual stipend of 800 lire. On her request in 1606 her lifetime pension from the Spanish court was transferred to her brother.

Sofonisba Anguissola. Portrait of Three ChildrenPortrait of Three Children


Anguissola received her initial training under Bernardino Campi and Bernardino Gatti. Sofonisba's father corresponded with Michelangelo regarding his daughter education and the celebrated artist served informally as her instructor in Rome when she was 23.
At the times when the nude subjects were not allowed for women (it was considered unacceptable for a lady to view the nude), Anguissola established a new style of portraiture, with subjects set in informal ways such as playing chess or holding animals.

Portrait of Infanta Catalina Micaela, Duchess of Savoy, 1585 by AnguissolaInfanta Catalina Micaela, Duchess of Savoy, 1585



Sofonisba Anguissola. Portrait of Alessandro FarnesePortrait of Alessandro Farnese. 1559-65


The turning point in her career was the invitation to join the Spanish Court in 1559, where she served as a court painter and lady-in-waiting to the new queen, Elizabeth of Valois, the third wife of Philip II. At the Spanish court Anguissola enjoyed a long and successful career.
At the age of 38 she was still unmarried and Philip II arranged a marriage for her to Don Francisco de Moncada, the son of the prince of Paterno, the viceroy of Sicily. The Spanish king also gave her a dowry. 18 years later Sofonisba and her husband left the Spanish court for Palermo where Don Francisco died in 1579.

Portrait of Anne of Austria, queen of Spain by Sofonisba Anguissola Anne of Austria, queen of Spain, the fourth wife of Felipe II of Spain


Shortly afterwards, at the age of 47, she met a much younger Orazio Lomellino, the captain of the ship, and married him in Pisa in 1580. The family settled in Genoa, where Anguissola had her own quarters and a studio.
The generous pension from Philip II and her husband's fortune allowed Sofonisba to paint freely and live comfortably.
She had no children, but maintained cordial relationships with her nieces and her husband's son Giulio.
Later in life Anguissola became a wealthy patron of the arts. She couldn't paint herself since her sight had weakend. She died in Palermo at the age of 93.

The Princesses Isabella Clara Eugenia and Catalina MicaelaThe Princesses Isabella Clara Eugenia and Catalina Micaela, c. 1570


  • Sofonisba Anguissola was the first woman painter who achieved fame and respect and her great success opened the way for larger numbers of women to pursue serious careers as artists.

  • Anguissola's portrait of Queen Elisabeth (Isabel of Valois) was the most widely copied portrait in Spain. Copiers of this work include many of the finest artists of the time, such as Peter Paul Rubens.

  • In 1623, the Flemish painter Sir Anthony Van Dyck visited Sofonisba and painted several portraits of her.

  • In her late period, Sofonisba created religious paintings, many of which have been lost.

  • After her death, seven years later, her husband placed an inscription on her tomb that reads, in part:

    "To Sofonisba, my wife ... who is recorded among the illustrious women of the world, outstanding in portraying the images of man ... Orazio Lomellino, in sorrow for the loss of his great love, in 1632, dedicated this little tribute to such a great woman."


Sofonisba Anguissola Boy Pinched by a CrabBoy Pinched by a Crab and a Laughing Girl

Sofonisba Anguissola Double Portrait of a Boy and GirlDouble Portrait of a Boy and Girl of the Attavanti Family, early 1580s

Bernardino Campi Painting Sofonisba AnguissolaBernardino Campi Painting Sofonisba Anguissola

Portrait of Don Carlos, son of King Philip II of SpainDon Carlos (1544-1568), son of King Philip II of Spain and Mary of Portugal, first wife of King Philip II

Portrait of Elisabeth de Valois by AnguissolaPortrait of Elisabeth de Valois, 1565

Portrait of Infanta Isabella Clara EugeniaInfanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, 1599

Portrait of Diane d'Andoins and her DaughterAttributed to Sofonisba Anguissola, Diane d'Andoins and her Daughter

Girl and a Dwarf, Portrait of Margarita of Savoy by AnguissolaGirl and a Dwarf, Portrait of Margarita of Savoy, Daughter of Duke and Duchess of Savoy, c.1595

Double Portrait by Sofonisba AnguissolaDouble Portrait

Portrait of Bianca Ponzoni Anguissola, the atist's mother, c.1557

Lucia, Minerva and Europa Anguissola Playing ChessLucia, Minerva and Europa Anguissola Playing Chess, 1555

Family Portrait, Minerva, Amilcare and Asdrubale AnguissolaFamily Portrait, Minerva, Amilcare and Asdrubale Anguissola, 1557

Elena Anguissola in the Garb of a NunThe artist's Sister Elena Anguissola in the Garb of a Nun, 1551

Portrait of Minerva AnguissolaPortrait of Minerva Anguissola

Portrait of Infanta Isabella Clara EugeniaPortrait of Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, 1573

Young Lady in a Profile by AnguissolaPortrait of a Young Lady in a Profile

Philip II, King of Spain by AnguissolaPhilip II, King of Spain

Portrait of Juana of Austria by AnguissolaPortrait of Juana of Austria (Portugal) and a Young Girl, 1561-62

Portrait of Marquis Massimiliano StampaPortrait of Marquis Massimiliano Stampa, 1557

Portrait of Granddaughter of the Duke and Duchess of ParmaThe Granddaughter of the Duke and Duchess of Parma

Portrait of Philip II by AnguissolaPortrait of Philip II

Sofonisba Anguissola. Self PortraitSofonisba Anguissola. Self Portrait

Self Portrait at the Spinet by Anguissola. Sofonisba Anguissola. Self Portrait at the Spinet

Sofonisba Anguissola. Self PortraitSofonisba Anguissola. Self Portrait, 1586

Self Portrait. Sofonisba Anguissola.Sofonisba Anguissola. Self Portrait, 1559

Self Portrait, 1554

Self Portrait, 1550s

Self Portrait, 1556

Anguissola as a Maid of Honour to the Queen of SpainSelf Portrait, Attired as a Maid of Honour to the Queen of Spain, 1559

Sofonisba Anguissola. Self Portrait, 1610Self Portrait, 1610

Sofonisba Anguissola. Self Portrait, 1620Self Portrait, 1620

Sofonisba Anguissola by Anthony Van DyckPortrait of Sofonisba Anguissola by Anthony Van Dyck, 1624

Portrait of Anguissola by Anthony Van DyckPortrait of Sofonisba Anguissola by Anthony Van Dyck

Holy Family by Sofonisba AnguissolaHoly Family

Holy Family by Sofonisba AnguissolaHoly Family with St.Anne and St.John the Baptist, 1592

Pity by Sofonisba AnguissolaPity by Sofonisba Anguissola, 1573

Portrait of Anguissola by Lucia AnguissolaPortrait of Sofonisba Anguissola by Lucia Anguissola

Circle of Sofonisba AnguissolaCircle of Sofonisba Anguissola. Portrait of Margherita of Savoy (1589-1655)

Circle of Sofonisba AnguissolaCircle of Sofonisba Anguissola. Portrait of a Nobleman

Circle of Sofonisba AnguissolaCircle of Sofonisba Anguissola. Portrait of a Lady

Sofonisba Anguissola Circle of Sofonisba Anguissola. Portrait of a Lady. An old inscription on the reverse identifies the sitter as Marchesa Donna Giulia Pallavicini, age 28


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