Performance and Imitation: The Devotional Images of Sofonisba Anguissola Open Access

Lazerson, Emma (Spring 2022)

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Sofonisba Anguissola (?1532/35-1625) has historically been known as a portraitist, lauded for creating the largest number of self-portraits between Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt van Rijn. Prior scholars have considered her self-fashioning as emblematic of her virtuousness and chastity, but they have often neglected to consider Sofonisba’s interactions with the broader world of Cinquecento Italian painting. My thesis examines three of her extant devotional images: her Self-Portrait with Madonna and Child (c. 1556), her Madonna dell’Itria altarpiece (late 1570s), and her Maria Lactans (1588). I analyze how Sofonisba adapts her style for the different anticipated audiences for whom she painted, and how her style ultimately becomes an amalgamation of these various influences. In her youth, she looked to Correggio and Parmigianino both in manner and subject to create an image of herself as the ideal courtier, relying on principles outlined by Baldassare Castiglione in his Il Cortegiano (1528). In the autumn and winter of her life, Sofonisba experimented with mode, creating an altarpiece and a private devotional image. The altarpiece looks to the specific iconography of Paternò in Sicily, blending that iconography with deeply personal elements that allude to her grief upon the death of her first husband. Finally, in the Maria Lactans, Sofonisba employs lessons she learned in the Spanish court to create a private devotional image full of charm, softness, sweetness, and color, traits that were valued by the Spanish. Many of the previous studies on Sofonisba have not examined her artistic practices in the broader Renaissance world; my study attempts to evaluate works in her oeuvre that have not often been discussed and to shed light on Sofonisba’s interaction with the early modern artistic practices.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations                                                                                                          1


Performance and Imitation: The Devotional Images of Sofonisba Anguissola   2


Bibliography                                                                                                                   32


Figures  37                                                              

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