Perspective | Sofonisba Anguissola’s self-portrait in State Department, Boston, reveals family roots

If you had six daughters in the 16th century, you’ve got a problem. The Colts, after all, add up. The solution for Amilcare Anguissola – one of her six daughters is the famous painter Sofonisba Anguissola – was to encourage them to develop and improve their talents.

In this, he was following advice Baldassare Castiglione In his hugely influential The Book of Court – a guide to standards of conduct and education for Renaissance men and women. Thus, five of his daughters started painting. (VI became a Latin writer and scholar). One of them died young. Two stopped painting after marriage. Another became a nun. The elder Sophonisba helped teach the others. She has proven to be exceptional.

Born Sofonisba Anguissola (c. 1532-1625) of poor, impoverished gentry in Cremona, Italy, she ended up as a lady-in-waiting to the Queen of Spain, Elisabeth of Valois, and painter at the powerful court of her husband, Philip II. Its brilliance has been recognized by Michelangelo and Giorgio Vasari, who mentions it in Lives of the Artists. Anthony Van Dyck Salutation Her in a photo taken before her death, at the age of 93.

In other words, she’s had a very successful career. But her most interesting work is her portrayal of herself and her family before moving to Spain. This is amazing Small profile picture In the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, painted around 1556, is one of at least a dozen self-portraits she made—more than anyone else since Albrecht Durer And the most even Rembrandt. Painted in watercolor on parchment paper.

Self-portrayal is inherently deceptive. Artists must observe themselves in a mirror, capturing a moment that is necessarily imaginary, because the viewer can never see the actual movements of the hand performing the creative work. This imaginative aspect makes self-depiction intrinsically playful, and Anguissola has done a lot of this.

in one SelfieFor example, she superimposed her image on a portrait drawn by her teacher, Bernadino Campi. confusing! Interestingly, her image is larger than Campy’s.

By contrast, this oval miniature is just over three inches tall. In it, Anguissola allowed herself to be overwhelmed by a medallion that almost completely obscured her body. However, she is still very much present. The Latin inscription around the border of the medallion reads: “The Virgin Sophonisba Anguissola, with her own hand, was depicted from a mirror in Cremona”.

The mirror Anguissola used appears to have deformed it Eyes, one of which appears abnormally enlarged. (The work was painted a quarter of a century after Parmigianino celebrated “a self-portrait in a convex mirror,(which loosely resembles her.) She was modestly dressed in a manner consistent with Castiglione’s advice, and smiled wryly, as if inviting us to the interpretation of a riddle.

An ancestor of Anguisola was, according to family tradition, the Byzantine warlord Galvano Sordi. Help liberate Constantinople from the Muslims in the early 8th century with “Greek Fire,” a recently developed weapon that sets water on fire. Sardi’s family shield bore the mark of a venomous viper, which in Latin means “anguis”. So after winning battles, his supporters are said to have chanted “Anguis sola fecit victoriam!” meaning “Only the serpent achieved victory!”

This led to his nickname “Anguissola”, which the Emperor eventually conferred as a title on his descendants. The Latin phrase has become a family motto.

Art historian Patricia Costa has suggested that the shield monogram in this self-portrait may contain, in cryptographic form, this family crest – or it may simply refer to Anguissola’s father, Amilcare. Either way, Anguissola clearly wanted her family’s claims to prestige to be respected. you passed. But the small size of the picture, together with her wry smile, suggests that she did it in the spirit of Castiglione, with the right amount of wit, brevity, and indifference.

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