WARSAW — Preceding Mary Cassatt, we find another female artist who received much acclaim during her career: Sofonisba Anguissola.
Anguissola was born into a noble but somewhat impoverished family. Her father, however; saw to it that she and her sisters had an education that was not only well-rounded but that included apprenticeships with excellent painters in fine art. This opened the door for the first time to allow females to study with actual thriving artists during the Italian Renaissance. Anguissola was born in Cremona, Italy, in 1532 and died in 1625 in Palermo, Sicily, Italy.
As a female artist, she had more restrictions such as not being allowed to study anatomy of the human figure because it was considered vulgar. In spite of this, and likely because her father kept her in the eye of members of the Spanish court of King Phillip II, it was only within a short time that she became a solid contender for any court portraiture along with becoming lauded for less formal but well-liked paintings of members of the court and their families. Her “Three Children and a Dog” was very successful (photo provided) as was one of her most famous works titled “The Chess Game.” Her talent and personality grew and was noted by Michelangelo. This led to an informal relationship in which Michelangelo mentored her through an exchange of drawings.
Since she was considered a noblewoman, it was considered inappropriate for her to receive payment for any of her works. This did not deter the subjects who sat for her as they were innovative in providing her some valuable gifts as a form of thanks and gratitude. She broke with tradition in another way: she did not sign the portraits that she created in Spain. This created some consternation later when many male artists were given credit for her work, probably because of the continuing bias against women artists. Art specialists in later years have tried to remedy this, but it is a difficult process and sometimes creates controversy.
During her years as an artist, Anguissola had the singular honor of being invited to be a lady-in-waiting to Elisabeth of Valois (the queen of Spain who was married to Philip II of Spain). Since Philip’s family ruled most of Europe and the New World, you can only imagine how this appointment helped Anguissola and her family. She was now a member of a close circle including the most powerful rulers in Europe. She thus secured a favorable place for her entire family. She thus became one of the most influential female artists during the Renaissance. She lived a long and healthy and productive life. When she was 92 years old, the emerging artist, Anthony van Dyck painted her portrait and made many positive comments about her abilities such as her mental aptitude, and her famous sharpness of mind. In spite of her advancing years, she was a brilliant conversationalist and discussed art and the principles of painting in which Van Dyck later said, “My conversation with her taught me more about painting than any other episode in my life.” Quite a statement during an era when many felt only men could perform the best art.
COMING UP: Open now. Arturo Carlos Yanez photography exhibit at Lakeland Art Gallery. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. 302 E. Winona Ave. Warsaw; Phone: (574) 267-5568. Fort Wayne Arts Festival-Jefferson Point Sept.11, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept.12, noon to 5 p.m. 4130 W.Jefferson Blvd. Fort Wayne. Want to be an exhibitor at Warsaw City Hall Art Gallery? Very good exposure for your work and good publicity about you. Just drop me an email to [email protected], with art exhibit in the subject line.