Artist profile: Sofonisba Anguissola – other portraits

Every month, I profile an artist who inspires my own art, in several segments.

Once Sofonisba Anguissola was able to travel, she began painting people outside her family. Many of her sitters were royalty and noble people, which meant long hours of painting highly-detailed jewelry, clothing, and backdrops.

a young boy in black clothing stands in front of a sleeping dog
Marquess Massimiliano Stampa
This boy’s portrait is very much like those of her siblings. He’s only nine in the portrait, but that year his father died and he became the head of the household (although others probably stepped in to run things). He’s both grown up and childish – childish especially in his face, with the big eyes.

Elisabeth of Valois (c.1599, c.1565)
Elisabeth was the daughter of Catherine de’ Medici (yes, the Catherine de’ Medici) and friend to Mary, Queen of Scots (yes, the Mary, Queen of Scots). Anguissola met Elisabeth the day she arrived in Spain to marry Philip II (see below) at the age of 14, and served as Elisabeth’s painting tutor and lady-in-waiting. Elisabeth died in 1568 after miscarrying.

Philip II of Spain (c. 1564)
Anguissola painted the Spanish king while he was married to Elisabeth of Valois. When Philip married his fourth wife and niece, Anna of Austria (yes, you read that correctly – see below), Anguissola re-painted his arm to match the portrait she painted of Anna. Philip II had also married to Mary I of England and proposed to Elizabeth I after her elder sister’s death, but Elizabeth ignored him. Whatever his preference for the ladies, he took interest in Anguissola, paying her outlandish dowry when she married her first husband.

Anna of Austria (c. 1573)
Anguissola stayed at the Spanish Court and painted Philip II’s fourth and last wife, who was also his niece. Oh yes, a tour through Spain’s royal family is an adventureland of incest and genetic maladies. Contemporary writers say they were happy together, even though not everyone approved the marriage. Anna finally gave birth to the male heirs Philip was so desperate for during all his other marriages. Their line died out only three generations later, with Charles II.

For more royal portraits, please visit this page at It’s About Time.

I’ve got to say, each post I’ve written about Sofonisba Anguissola wiped me out – I found such a wealth of information about her and I wanted to include as much as possible. It was really hard to keep my posts as short as they were (ha ha) so thank you for reading!

Other parts in the Sofonisba Anguissola artist profile series
Self portraits
Family Portraits


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