Copyright 2018 Southampton City Art Gallery All rights reserved

On Display

Sofonisba Anguissola (c.1532-1625)

The Artist’s Sister in the Garb of a Nun

Although women painters were not unknown in 16th century Italy most were the daughters of established artists. Anguissola's family were members of the Genoese nobility. Painting might be part of a young noblewoman's education but to train professionally in an artist's studio was almost unknown. Anguissola's success broke new ground in making painting a socially acceptable career for a woman. Her reputation was such that she was invited to be a lady in waiting, court painter and teacher to Isabel de Valois, wife of King Philip II of Spain.

Although famous in her day Anguissola later fell into obscurity and many of her paintings were attributed to celebrated male artists. This beautiful portrait was once thought to be by Titian but an inscription on the back gave Anguissola's name and a date of 1551. It is the earliest known work by the artist and is thought to show her sister Elena who became a nun.

Medium oil on canvas
Date 1551
Dimensions 685mm x 533mm
Acquisition Number SOTAG : 1979/14
Credit Line Purchased in 1936 through the Chipperfield Bequest Fund