portrait of philip ii

Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1625)
“Self-portrait at the easel” (1556)
Oil on canvas
Renaissance
Located in the Łańcut Castle, Łańcut, Poland

Anguissola was an Renaissance painter born in Cremona to a relatively poor noble family. She received a well-rounded education, that included the fine arts, and her apprenticeship with local painters set a precedent for women to be accepted as students of art. As a young woman, Anguissola traveled to Rome where she was introduced to Michelangelo, who immediately recognized her talent. The Spanish queen Elizabeth of Valois was a keen amateur painter, and in 1559 Anguissola was recruited to go to Madrid as her tutor, with the rank of lady-in-waiting. She later became an official court painter to the king, Philip II. After the queen’s death, Philip helped arrange an aristocratic marriage for her. She moved to Sicily, and later Pisa and Genoa, where she continued to practice as a leading portrait painter, living to the age of ninety-three.

“Queen Elizabeth of Valois, Third Wife of Philip II of Spain” (1605) (detail) by Juan Pantoja de la Cruz (1553-1608).

“Queen Elizabeth of Valois, Third Wife of Philip II” (1605) (detail) by Juan Pantoja de la Cruz (1553-1608).