Sofonisba’s Inventiveness; Vasari’s Inventione

Given Sofonisba’s 1554 Dominican Astronomer (signed and dated upside down), her nonconformist, voluptuous 1559 Virgin Mary (signed and dated) and her 1578 Madonna dell’ Itria, documented by her official bequest to the monastery (disputed for years as beyond her style), one cannot deny Sofonisba’s range, and the reason Vasari uses the term invenzione to describe her.


Which Renaissance artist signed a painting upside down? A 24 year old female from Cremona painting a Dominican astronomer doing mathematical calculations 80 years before Galileo’s trial. That ‘s invention, Vasari’s invenzione.

Sofonisba was not a copyist. Coello was. He copied her work over and over. But that’s another story. Sofonisba cannot be contained in a little box in which tradition wants to put her.

La Luministe by Paula Butterfield


With La Luministe Paula Butterfield delivers a touching and compelling chronicle of female artist Berthe Morisot and the nineteenth century impressionist world she helped to birth. From unpaved streets of Paris to Baccarat lined parlors, we are treated to a vivid dramatization of the beginnings of modern Paris. Surviving the Franco-Prussian war, the Siege of Paris, and a dogged love for Manet, Berthe Morisot masters light and becomes the first impressionist to exhibit in a public museum. From Ms. Butterfield’s artful pen, we are handed one more narrative to illuminate women’s history. I recommend this book for fans of historical fiction, art, women’s history, impressionism, Paris.

Sofonisba Was Not Always Forgotten

In 1774, Giambattista Zaist wrote Notizie Istoriche de’ Pittori, Scultori, ed Architetti Cremonesi or Historical Notes of Painters, Sculptors, and Architects of Cremona.

For seven pages he writes about the accomplishments of Sofonisba Anguissola, recounting her early years, her time in Spain, her long legacy.

He concludes with these words,

“che superò l’artifizio non solo de piu esperti Pittori dell’ arte , specialmente del ritrarre di naturale, ma eguaglio`, al dir del Soprani, lo stesso Tiziano.”

“She surpassed the art not only of more experienced Painters of art, especially in natural portraiture, but equal, as says Soprani [1674], to Titian.”

Sofonisba was not always forgotten from history. Soprani and Zaist noted her. Vasari raved about her in his Lives of the Artists-and Vasari saw her work contemporary with all the Renaissance masters. Still, centuries after her accomplishments, her legacy continues to be stripped from her.

Sofonisba’s legacy deserves attention and correction.