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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Sophonisba Anguisciola

b. circa 1532, Cremona, Italy; d. 1625, Palermo, Italy

The common spelling of this name is SOFONISBA ANGUISSOLA.

Sofonisba Anguissola was born into a noble but relatively impoverished family of Cremona and, along with her five sisters and one brother, received a humanist education that included literature, music, and art. She and her sisters all were artists, but she was the only one to achieve an international reputation. In 1559, she became painting instructor to Isabel de Valois, young wife of the Spanish monarch Philip II, and traveled to Madrid. There she remained for at least thirteen years; in 1573, the king arranged a marriage between Sofonisba and the Sicilian aristocrat Fabrizio de Moncada. The couple settled in Sicily, but Sofonisba was widowed three years later. Meanwhile, she continued to paint and her output was enormous, principally portraits and self-portraits, but also religious paintings. She married again, this time to a Genoese nobleman, but spent her last years in Sicily, where she was visited by the young Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck in 1623/24. Sofonisba was around ninety years old at the time; van Dyck’s drawing of her and the notes he took of their conversation are preserved in one of his sketchbooks.