For the first time ever in the United States, NMWA presents a survey of works by renowned Renaissance painter Sofonisba Anguissola (1532/35-1625). This great artist recognized as an exceptional talent in her day, will be represented by over 25 important works, including intimate family portraits praised by Vasari for their life-like quality, exquisite depictions of Spanish nobility, and flawlessly detailed portraits created during her fourteen years as court painter to Philip II of Spain.
A pioneer in the field of self-portraiture and genre painting, Sofonisba Anguissola was the first Italian woman to achieve international recognition as an artist. Born in Cremona to an enlightened nobleman and his wife, Sofonisba and her five younger sisters were given a humanist education in the arts and taught to read Latin (at a time when aristocratic girls traditionally received instruction only in the intricacies of the needle arts, drawing and music as an amateur avocation).
Sofonisba and her sister Elena were encouraged in their pursuits by their father, who arranged for them to apprentice with the artists Bernardino Campi and Bernardino Gatti. The first known work in existence by Anguissola, The Artist’s Sister in the Garb of a Nun (1551, Southampton City Art Gallery, Great Britain) reflects this early training. She emerged as a distinguished portrait painter, creating important works in the field of family portraits, often using her sisters as subjects. Her Chess Game (Muzeum Narodowe, Poznan/Poland), for example, is considered one of the most innovative paintings of the Italian Cinquecento.
Twenty paintings by Sofonisba Anguissola from major public and private collections in Europe and America, together with outstanding works by her younger sister Lucia, who died at an early age and remained virtually unknown until the 1970s, will be included in the exhibition. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for visitors to see these works assembled for the first time in the United States at The National Museum of Women in the Arts.