Sofonisba Anguissola, Italian, 1532/35 - 1625
Medium: Oil on wood panel
Painting: 4 5/8 × 4 5/8 in. (11.7 × 11.7 cm)
Frame: 9 13/16 × 9 13/16 × 1 5/8 in. (24.9 × 24.9 × 4.1 cm)
Panel: 5 7/16 × 5 1/4 × 1/4 in. (13.8 × 13.3 × 0.6 cm)
Credit Line: Memphis Park Commission purchase
Object Number: 43.10
One of the first female artists of the Renaissance to be recognized during her own lifetime, Sofonisba Anguissola achieved international fame with her sensitively rendered portraits. Although sixteenth-century custom excluded women from receiving a formal education, Anguissola's open-minded father allowed her to study painting along with the other "unconventional" pursuits of reading, writing and languages. During the 1550s, the artist was greatly encouraged by the critical attention given her work by Michelangelo. She produced a number of religious paintings, ordinarily the domain of male artists, and in 1559, was named court painter to King Philip II of Spain.
As women artists were not permitted to work from nude models, Anguissola often used her family as sitters for her portraits. In this Self-Portrait, she wears a high-collared dress with a ruffled lace-edged collar and string ties. Portrait of One of the Artist's Sisters depicts one of her siblings in an elegant puffed-sleeved outer dress with a high ruffled, lace collar. As in numerous examples by the much admired painter, the faces exhibit a sense of contemplation, made more appealing with just a hint of a smile.