Sofonisba Anguissola
Portrait Group with the Artist’s Father Amilcare Anguissola and her siblings Minerva and Astrubale, c. 1559
Oil on canvas, 157 x 122 cm.
Inventory number: 0001NMK
Bestowed, 1908


The Italian noblewoman Sofonisba Anguissola was the most famous and recognised female artist of the Renaissance period. She was particularly acclaimed as a portrait artist, and here she portrays her father Amilcare, her brother Astrubale, and her sister Minerva in fancy outfits with drapes in the background in a rare intimate and personal family portrait. Her father is proudly displaying his son but her sister is also portrayed. Sofonisba left the work unfinished in the bottom left corner, as she had to leave her childhood home in Cremona on short notice as King Philip II of Spain offered her a position as a lady in waiting for his new queen. She worked for the Spanish court for twenty years, where she also served as a drawing teacher and made portraits of virtually the entire royal family. The family portrait belonging to The Nivaagaard Collection is considered as one of her main works.


Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1625)
Sofonisba mastered the portrait genre in particular, which she practiced under the influence of, among others, the Central Italian school, represented by artists such as Correggio. Meanwhile, she was also receptive towards the new realist tendencies in Lombardy. When she was young, she engaged in a written correspondence with Michelangelo, who recognised the young woman’s talent and took on the role as a long-distance teacher. Sofonisba worked at the Spanish court for twenty years and was married twice in the course of her life, but was already middle-aged by the time of her first marriage, which testifies to an extremely atypical life for a woman in that period. She founded and ran a painting school and continued painting throughout her long life. The spontaneously expressive and immediate character of a number of her portraits would later inspire artists such as Caravaggio.

Translator: Jennifer Russell

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