Women artists, Sofonisba Anguissola


This 2015 video says about itself:

Sofonisba Anguissola (also spelled Anguisciola) (c. 1532 – 16 November 1625) was an Italian Renaissance painter born in Cremona to a noble family, but a relatively poor one. 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.

As a young woman, Anguissola traveled to Rome where she was introduced to Michelangelo, who immediately recognized her talent, and to Milan, where she painted the Duke of Alba.

Elizabeth of Valois, the queen of Philip II of Spain, was a keen amateur painter, and in 1569 Anguissola was recruited to go to Madrid as her tutor, with the rank of lady-in-waiting. She later became an official court painter to the king, and adapted her style to the more formal requirements of official portraits for the Spanish court.

After the queen’s death, Philip helped arrange an aristocratic marriage for her. She moved to Palermo, and later Pisa and Genoa, where she continued to practice as a leading portrait painter, apparently with the support of her two husbands, living to the age of ninety-three.

In the post 1500 history of Europe and countries with much European influence (in order not to make the subject too big and too complex), women on average had less chance of becoming visual artists than men.

After becoming artists, they had less chance of becoming famous artists (most art critics being male, etc.).

Not just conservatives, but also Giovanni Boccaccio, usually seen as a progressive herald of the Renaissance in arts, had prejudices against women, including as artists.

Now, some women who were more or less exceptions to this rule.

Sofonisba Anguissola lived from about 1535 (1532, some accounts say) to 1625.

A younger contemporary and friend of Michelangelo, like him, she lived to a very old age, certainly for the sixteenth century.

So, she became an older contemporary of Anthonie van Dyck, whom she influenced.

She had the advantage of growing up in a family which had money, social prestige of aristocracy, and interest in arts.

She managed to get a job at the Spanish court, teaching 14-year-old queen of Spain Elisabeth de Valois how to draw.

She painted a portrait of herself at work when she was 26.

However, when the queen died nine years after the painter’s arrival, she had to return to her native Italy.

This series on women artists will continue, in between blog entries here on other subjects.

Art and gender in history: here.

2 thoughts on “Women artists, Sofonisba Anguissola

  1. Pingback: Italian artist Sofonisba Anguissola revisited, and her contemporaries | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: British elections and corporate media sexism | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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