|Self Portrait by Sofonisba Anguissola, 1556, Italy|
"Sofonisba Anguissola (also spelled Anguisciola) (c. 1532 – 16 November 1625) was an Italian Renaissance painter born in Cremona. She received a well-rounded education that included the fine arts and her apprenticeship with local painters set a precedent for women to be accepted as students of art. Anguissola traveled to Rome, where she was introducted to Michelangelo who immediately recognized her talent, Milan, where she painted the Duke of Alba, Madrid, which was a turning point in her career serving as a court painter and painting many official portraits for the Spanish court, and Palermo, Pisa, and Genoa, where she was the leading portrait painter.
"Self-portraits and family members were her most frequent subjects, but, in her later life, she also painted religious themes. Unfortunately, many of her religious paintings have been lost. Anguissola became a wealthy patron of the arts after the weakening of her sight. In 1625, she died at age ninety-three in Palermo. Anguissola's oeuvre had a lasting influence on subsequent generations of artists, and her great success opened the way for larger numbers of women to pursue serious careers as artists. Her paintings can be seen at galleries in Bergamo, Budapest, Madrid (Museo del Prado), Naples, Siena, and at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence."
"It is no surprise to find the following inscription on one of Anguissola's self-portraits showing the Virgin and Child (Zeri Collection, Mentana):
I, the maiden Sofonisba, equalled the Muses and Apelles in performing my songs and handling my colours."As an educated woman, Sofonisba Anguissola would have been familiar with the names of classical women artists, but she clearly felt there was more advantage in allying herself to Apelles than to some lesser-known female painter. "The Virgin and Child self-portrait [illustrated here] is also interesting in revealing the painter's desire to show off her versatility. Since the education offered was rarely as thorough as the training for men."
[Anguissola's brother] Asdrubale Bitten by a Crayfish, c. 1554
"Anguissola's drawing of Asdrubale Bitten by a Crayfish (Museo di Capodimonte, Naples) links her name to that of Michelangelo. In a letter to Cosimo de' Medici dated 20, January 1562, Tomaso Cavalieri explained his gift of the Capidomonte drawing in the following terms: "... the divine Michelangelo having seen a drawing done by [Sofonisba's] hand of a smiling girl, said he would have like to see a weeping boy as a subject more difficult to draw."
Asdrubale Bitten by a Crayfish not only meets the challenge, it goes one better, juxtaposing the smiling girl with the weeping boy."