Sofonisba Anguissola

Portrait Group with the Artist’s Father Amilcare Anguissola and her Siblings Minerva and Astrubale

  • Sofonisba Anguissola (Italian, 1532–1625)
  • Oil on canvas, 157 x 122 cm
  • 1558–1559
  • Nivaagaards Malerisamling, Denmark; acquired 1873



The Chess Game

  • Sofonisba Anguissola (Italian, 1532–1625)
  • Oil on canvas, 72 x 92 cm
  • 1555
  • Raczyński Foundation, National Museum, Poznań

        The Artist

        Sofonisba Anguissola, an Italian noblewoman, was an artistic prodigy. In her lifetime, her talent was noted by Michelangelo, Vasari and Van Dyck. Her father was a humanist with forward-thinking ideas about the educating and training women. So, unusually for that time, she was permitted to train as a painter. As a young woman, she spent some years in the court of Philip II, in Spain. Initially she was a lady-in-waiting to the Spanish queen, Elizabeth of Valois, to whom she taught painting. She stayed on after the queen’s death, and her position allowed her to continue painting. Philip eventually gave her a lifelong pension. While a few of her extant works touch on religious themes, most are portraits. She was particularly sought after as a portrait artist, because she had a special gift for capturing on canvas the personalities of her subjects. Her surviving works, which are held in museums all over the world, include at least 16 self-portraits, from all stages of her life (from young to quite old).  According to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston website, she “executed more self-portraits than any other artist in the period between Dürer and Rembrandt.”

        Learn more about Anguissola’s painting Portrait Group with the Artist’s Father Amilcare Anguissola and her Siblings Minerva and Astrubale: Nivaagaards Malerisamling

        Upcoming/recent exhibitions featuring Sofonisba Anguissola:

        In 2020/21, the Wadsworth Atheneum and the Detroit Institute of Arts collaborate to present “By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500–1800.” The organizers’ intent is to introduce to the public a “diverse and dynamic” group of female Old Masters, including not only Gentileschi but also court artist Sofonisba Anguissola, printer and painter Elisabetta Sirani, and other talented, but now virtually unknown, women artists. Dates are still tentative, but the exhibition is likely to open in Hartford in October 2021, and in Detroit in February 2022. Exhibition

        In celebration of its 200th anniversary, Madrid’s Prado museum put on an exhibition of works by two Renaissance women artists, Lavinia Fontana and Sofonisba Anguissola. The exhibition ran from October 2019 until early February 2020. Exhibition

        Books about Sofonisba Anguissola


        Sofonisba’s Lesson: A Renaissance Artist and Her Work, by Michael W. Cole (Princeton University Press, 2020)

        A Tale of Two Women Painters: Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana (exhibition catalog, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2019)

        Sofonisba Anguissola: The First Great Woman Artist of the Renaissance, by Ilya Sandra Perlingieri (Rizzoli, 1992)

        Sofonisba Anguissola: A Renaissance Woman, by Sylvia Ferino-Pagden with Maria Kusche (National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1995)


        Lady in Ermine: The Story of a Woman who Painted the Renaissance, by Donna Di Giuseppe (Bagwyn Books, 2019)

        Sofonisba: Portraits of the Soul, by Chiara Montani (Independently published, 2019)

        The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola, by Melissa Muldoon (Matta Press, 2020)

        Learn more online about Sofonisba Anguissola at:

        The Art Herstory blog: 

        Renaissance Women Painting Themselves, by Katherine McIver

        A Tale of Two Women Painters, by Natasha Moura


        Sotheby’s: Explore >

        National Museum of Women in the Arts: Explore >

        Europeana Collections: Explore >

        Smarthistory: Explore >

        The Art Story: Explore >

        Jill Burke’s blog: Explore >





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        Artemisia Gentileschi

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