Sofonisba Anguissola Essay

2698 words - 11 pages

Sofonisba Anguissola was one of the most prominent female painters of the Renaissance. Not only was she one of only four women mentioned by Giorgio Vasari in his famous Lives of the Artists, she also paved the way for later female artists. One may look at Sofonisba’s upbringing and assume that her talents were a result of her wealth and family background. However, if investigated more carefully through both analytical secondary sources and primary sources, it becomes clear that Sofonisba’s painting abilities formed because of her talent, not her wealth. Sofonisba integrated herself into the artistic community and used her second-class status as a female painter to accelerate her career: because she was not able to study as an apprentice in a workshop, her models were usually family members, she pioneered the style of genre painting. Historian Joan Kelly argues in her essay, “Did Women Have a Renaissance?” that women did not experience a Renaissance during the actual Renaissance. Sofonisba’s training and connections were extremely helpful to launch her career, refuting Kelly’s argument that women only were taught “charm” during the Renaissance. In addition, Sofonisba married her second husband for love, not for money, debunking Kelly’s argument that marriages during the Renaissance were not based on love. Though Sofonisba’s life as a woman is a unique case in terms of wealth and profession, her success and fame, talent, and marriage (van dyck?) disprove Kelly’s argument that women did not have a Renaissance during the Renaissance.
Sofonisba was fortunate enough to receive unique extensive training in painting and the liberal arts at a young age, a consequence of her family’s wealth and her father’s desire for all his children, both male and female, to be successful. This was not common, however, as historians have “documented the extremely limited education for the majority of sixteenth-century women…most women did not have a Renaissance education”. Even though the majority of women were not able to formally learn during the Renaissance, Sofonisba is an example of a woman who used her education to its fullest advantage. Sofonisba was unique in her experiences to learn at a young age, but this does not devalue the fact that she did have an education that was different from how Kelly describes Renaissance education: “…for the woman, charm ha[d] become the primary occupation and aim”. Sofonisba’s early schooling refutes this argument, as her father paid for tutors in her younger years. Kelly makes a broad generalization in her statement, but this generalization did not apply to Sofonisba. Sofonisba did, indeed, have a unique amount of wealth that contributed to her substantial education. Some may attribute Sofonisba’s later success to these early tutors, leading to a false conclusion that Sofonisba only became famous because of her wealth. This, however, is also a false conclusion.
Although Sofonisba’s father paid for many art tutors in her...

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