Female Renaissance Artist -Sofonisba Anguissola
At the height of the Italian Renaissance Sofonisba Anguissola was one of the leading painters of the movement, an excellent colorist, draftswoman and composer. Sofonisba's greatest contribution was that she opened the art world up to women painters. As one of the first women to be accepted as an artist within the discipline it allowed many more female painters to follow.
Sofonisba Anguissola was born in Cremona, Lombardia in 1532, the eldest daughter, from a family of seven, six of whom were girls. Her father, Amilcare Anguissola was a Genoese nobleman and her mother, Biance Ponzone also from a wealthy background. Amilcare encouraged all his children to pursue their hearts and spurred on the girls desire to be creative. Sofonisba and her younger sister Lucia went into painting, sadly Lucia died at a young age having shown great promise. Sofonisba continued and was taken on as apprentice to local artist Bernadino Campi who taught her until he moved away. At which time another local Bernardino Gatti continued her tutelage.
Rome and Michelangelo
In 1554, aged twenty-two Sofonisba travelled to Rome where she spent her time sketching and painting. It was during her time here that she was introduced to Michaelangelo and received much informal instruction from him. He would critique her work and take pages from his sketchpad and tell her to interpret them in her own style.
Despite all the advantages of her class she was still not able to fully enter into the world of art as it was forbidden for women to study "the nude". This effectively barred her from undertaking large scale religious and multi-figured historical commissions. Her subjects continued to be formal sittings, portraits and still life studies, frequently featuring her own family.
By 1558 Sofonisba was already a well known painter of her day, while in Milan, completing a commission of the Duke of Alba she was recommended to the King of Spain, Philip II. This meeting proved to be the turning point in her life and the following year she joined the Spanish court as a lady in waiting to Queen Elisabeth of Valois, herself an amateur painter.
During her time at court that she produced some of her most exquisite works, full of intricate and delicate fabrics, fabulous jewelry and furs. With the death of Queen Elisabeth in 1570, it was decided that the thirty eight year old Sofonisba should marry and the King arranged her betrothal to Don Francisco, a Sicilian Prince. They remained together in the Spanish court for a further 8 years but in 1578 deciding to move to Sicily. Only a year later her husband died and at forth seven Anguissola returned home to Cremona.
The Later Years
While travelling back to Lombardia, she met the much younger Orazio Lomellino and not long after they were married. Settling in Genoa they enjoyed a long life together. Orazio supporting his wife's talents financially and spiritually. In 1623 a young Flemish artist, Anthony Van Dyck visited her and remarked how despite being 90 years old she was still mentally alert, even if her "eyesight was weakened". Sofonisba's last painting was executed in 1620 and at the age of 93 in 1625 she died in Palermo.
A plaque on the tomb, put there by her dotting husband describes her as "among the illustrious women of the world".
Her work, richly colorful and beautifully detailed, full of charming little additions from everyday life of the period. While there were other women active during the Renaissance period, Sofonisba's influence can not be under stated for it made way for future generations of female painters to be allowed, encouraged and appreciated.
Other Artists on This Hub
Twentieth Century Welsh Painter - Gwen John
Sister of Augustus John, Rodin's lover and artist
Female Painter from the Baroque Period - Artsmisia Gentileschi
First female member of Florence's Accademia della Arti a Disegno,
Female Painters of the Renaissance - 1400 -1650
Renaissance Painters - Jacopo Bassano
Baroque Painter - Caravaggio
Brilliant, inspired artist, leading light who died tragically young
Rococo Portrait Painting - Rosalba Carriera Innovative miniaturist and pastellist
Dadaist - Hannah Hoch