Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1625)

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Self-Portrait, 1554 *Considered to be her first formal work


Sofonisba Anguissola is historically the first female to ever gain international recognition as a painter. Certainly she was not the first female to ever pick up a paint brush, but during the Renaissance era, she was the first to break through into a profession then dominated by men and became a noted and respected artist.


Elizabeth of Valois, 1565


Portrait of a Woman in Profile


Anguissola was an Italian artist, born in Cremona to a noble family. She took formal painting lessons with her sister, Elena, under local portrait painter Bernardo Campi. It is believed that it wasn’t until Campi accepted her as a student that others began to accept female pupils as well. After she studied with Campi, she continued her work with painter Bernardino Gatti. It is said that Anguissola became so revered in her day that even the artist Michelangelo sent her some of his sketches so that she could critique them. In turn, Anguissola copied them, and these sketches would surely have great value today. It is also known that she was visited by artist Anthony van Dyck in her later years, as her likeness is sketched in his notebook along with notes on her artistic advice.


Portrait of the Artist’s Sister, Minerva


The Artist’s Sisters Playing Chess


It is thought that she was a fairly prolific painter, for some 50 of her works still survive today—a relatively high number for a 16th century artist. Anguissola generally painted portraits. She was fond of painting little dogs in her portraits, and painted a number of self-portraits and portraits of her family.


Portrait of a Lady and her Dog


Portrait of the artists sisters and brother


Portrait of the artists sister, brother and father


After she married in 1570, it is generally believed that she did not continue to paint. She spent the rest of her life raising her three children in Palermo and Genoa and was a wealthy patron of the arts until she began to go blind.


Portrait of Phillip II


Self Portrait of the Artist at her Easel


Today her works are housed all over Europe, many at the Prado Museum in Madrid. She was an inspiration in her time and today for fellow female painters, and she set the precedence in her era for women to enter the art world. Still wondering about a Renaissance era portrait hanging in your home? Contact us…we are the Sofonisba Anguissola experts.