Mini Biography: Sofonisba Anguissola

Birth: 1532
Death: Nov. 16th, 1625
Nationality: Italian
Movement: Late Renaissance

The oldest of 7 children, Anguissola was born in Lombardy, Italy to a minor noble family. Her education included the fine arts and she was apprenticed to a painter for about 3 years in the early 1550’s. At 22, while in Rome, she met Michelangelo and was informally tutored by him for a short period of time. In her late 20’s she became a lady-in-waiting to young Elisabeth (Isabel) of Valois the artistically inclined 3rd wife of King Philip II of Spain which allowed her to paint highly detailed portraits of the nobility. Well respected and financially secure from a court pension and marriage, Anguissola became the leading portrait painter in Genoa and finished her last self- portrait in 1620. Four years later, a young Flemish artist named Anthony van Dyck, painted her portrait and gathered advice about the principles of painting from her. Anguissola had taught and encouraged young painters throughout her life and after she developed problems with her eyesight she became a patron of the arts.She was buried in the Church of Saint George of the Genoese in Palermo, Italy in 1625 at the age of 93.

Some of her notable work includes: Lucia, Minerva and Europa Anguissola Playing Chess, Portrait of Massimiliano Stampa (1557), and Portrait of Queen Elisabeth (Isabel) of Spain (1545-1568). Below is Anguissola’s painting of 3 of her younger sisters playing chess.


Anguissola, Sofonibsa. The Chess Game also called Lucia, Minerva and Europa Anguissola Playing Chess (1555), National Museum, Poznań, Poland.

An interesting side note is that both Lucia and Europa became painters while Minerva (on the right) became a writer and Latin scholar.

To read more about Anguissola and her work visit:

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

National Museum of Women in the Arts

Encyclopædia Britannica