Self portrait at the easel | Sofonisba Anguissola | 1556
Amilcare Anguissola, who didn’t mind social conventions, stimulated his 7 daughters to develop their talents as professional as they could. Sofonisba, the oldest of them, showed a great deal of talent for painting, while her sisters devoted themselves to music or languages. After she learned from local painters, she decided to move to Rome, with 22 years. There she met Michelangelo who, surprised by the artist’s skill, became her master informally. Despite the stimulation Anguissola received, she couldn’t overcome certain restrictions of her time: as it was unacceptable for women to look at nudes, the artist couldn’t study anatomy or draw live models. For this reason, she had no choice than devoting herself to portraits.
In Self portrait at the easel, we’ll look at her painting a canvas in a stand. In her hands, she holds a brush and a stick (?) while she paints an image of the madonna and her son. To paint, the artist dresses accordingly with comfortable clothes and puts her hair away from her face. Anguissola appears with a tired and sad face, which contrasts with the idealization typical of the renaissance style. This painting, on the other hand, seems spontaneous and real. It is curious that, in the self portrait, we find the artist painting a religious motif: these ones constitute just a very small part of her oeuvre and, today, we only know 5 paintings of this type that can be attributed to her.