Italia • 1532−1625

Biography and information

She studied painting with B. Kampi and B. Gati. The scenic heritage of Sofonisba is quite large: it includes about fifty works, most of which relate to the years of stay in Cremona.

In 1560 Angishola (Anguishola) received the position of artist at the court of the Spanish king Philip the second.

After leaving Spain, Angishola (Anguishola) settled in Genoa, where she opened her own school of painting.

Italian artist, master of the portrait genre. Sofonisba was born in Cremona (Lombardy). She was the eldest of seven children, six of whom were girls. Her father Amilcar Angishola belonged to the chosen aristocratic circle of Genoa. Sofonisba's mother Bianca Ponzone also came from a famous aristocratic family. She died early, when Sofonisbe was only five years old.


Being already well-known, Angishola visited Milan in 1558, where she wrote a portrait of the Duke of Alba, who recommended it to the Spanish king Philip II. The following year, Angishola was invited to the Spanish court, which was a recognition of her talent.


Sofonisbe Angishola was 27 years old when she left her family and arrived in Spain at the court of the king. In the winter of 1559–1560, she arrived in Madrid to serve as court painter and court lady of Queen Elizabeth Valois, the third wife of King Philip II, whom he had just married. Soon she gained the respect and trust of the young queen.


Angishola spent the following years, mainly creating official court portraits, including the queen and other members of the royal family, Philip II's sister Juana, and son Don Carlos. Her portraits of Elizabeth Valois and Anna of Austria (Philip II’s fourth wife) are dynamic and full of life.


On the way home to Cremona, Sofonisba met Orazio Lomellino, the former captain of the ship on which she sailed. They loved each other at first sight and soon married in Pisa in January 1580. Sofonisba was 47 at that time, and her husband was much younger than her. Her husband strongly supported Sofonisbu Angishola in her work, which was the basis for their long and happy marriage. They settled in Genoa, where her husband's family lived in a big house. Sofonisbe created excellent conditions for creativity, separate apartments and a private workshop.


Many artists came to visit her to learn and share opinions on the directions in the development of art. She created her own style, which many artists sought to emulate. Her success opened the way to artists of other Renaissance women, such as Lavinia Fontana, Barbara Longhi, Fede Galicia and Artemisia Gentileschi.


In the last years of her life, Angishola painted not only portraits, but also canvases on religious themes, as in the days of her youth. However, many of her paintings were subsequently lost.


The successful trade of her husband and the generous pension from Philip II allowed her to paint freely and live comfortably. She was the leading portrait painter in Genoa until she moved to Palermo in the last years of her life. In 1620 she created her last self-portrait.