Sofonisba Anguissola - inv. 322

Sofonisba Anguissola (1531/1532-1625)

1558 c.
44,8 x 34,2 cm
1894 acquisition 
Inv. 322

Palma Room
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This painting was traditionally thought to be the artist's self-portrait, but other hypotheses have recently been advanced, not only for the sitter but also for the artist: the work was attributed to Sofonisba's sister Lucia and the young woman depicted would be Minerva, another of Amilcare Anguissola's five daughters. Sofonisba was the only one to become famous, attaining work at the Spanish court as a portraitist, but she was not the only one to paint: the other sisters were also painters, as Giorgio Vasari reported. On a journey to Cremona he had visited the Anguissola home and had admired the work of the "virtuos" young women.

The young woman portrayed half-bust in an oval canvas (a shape in vogue at the time, especially in miniature painting) is wearing a black dress brightened by the white of her shirt. Only the collar of this can be seen and the ribbon falling onto her chest. A plait circles her head and her face is slightly turned to the right, although she is looking directly at the spectator. At first glance the painting seems very simple, but on closer examination it is clear how much care has been taken. This is revealed in the accurate details, with effects recalling Flemish art: for example, the eyes, the hair, the lace on the collar, and devices like the light background, which highlights the figure and hints at the surrounding space.