The Chess Game by Sofonisba Anguissola 1555 (Photo by Donna DiGiuseppe)

A PRINCESS OF PEACE  for 2021

So much pain, in so many ways, 2020. Yet, also, transformation, change, growth. Quarantine offered time and simplicity.

I used my time and angst in 2020 to polish the screenplay adaptation of LADY IN ERMINE.

Six rewrites. It was rough in June. Wordy in July. Rambling in August.

In September, I worked with Mira Kopell (UC Berkeley, Film & Media). Thank you, Mira!

October to nail the structure.

November, it all came together.

December, my gift to myself was to finish it.

From reader feedback, Ferrante Anguissola, and my own gut feelings, I know LADY IN ERMINE will make a beautiful film. Plus, historical fiction is back (Bridgerton). Strong female characters are in (The Queen’s Gambit). The time for LADY IN ERMINE  is here.

But 2021 needs both patience and a kick. We pine for the vaccine distribution. We need to get on with life.

So, I’m beginning the second novel of the Lady in Ermine series. Sofonisba influenced so much, and so many.

LADY IN ERMINE: The Story of  a Woman Who Painted the Renaissance begins on September 21, 1549. I will work to finish a manuscript of A PRINCESS OF PEACE by September 21, 2021. Patience and a kick for 2021. Thank you to all who gave feedback on the first novel. It has been so positive! I am grateful. To a healthy and peaceful 2021.

TheQueen’sGambit Meet Lady In Ermine

With the success of The Queen’s Gambit, Sofonisba’s Chess Game is relevant again. Sofonisba wove a narrative of her own Queen’s Gambit right into the game played in her 1555 masterpiece. It’s dramatized in Lady in Ermine, Chapter Four, “The Chess Game.”

I think Sofi would enjoy this series and it’s focus on women and chess. http://sofonisba.net

The Chess Game by Sofonisba Anguissola 1555

When Senators are Silent

When The 500 Year Old Roman Republic Became an Empire

“He had absolute control of the provinces, too, and power to appoint the provincial governors-general, together with the command of the armies and the right of levying troops and of making peace or war. In Rome he was voted the life-office of People’s Protector, which secured him against all interference with his authority, gave him the power of vetoing the decisions of other office-holders and carried with it the inviolability of his person…

“He also had the Censorship, which gave him authority over the two leading social orders, those of Senators and Knights…

“He had control of the Public Treasury: he was supposed to render periodic accounts, but nobody was ever bold enough to demand an audit…

“…his influence on the Senate was such that they voted whatever he suggested to them–the control of public finances, the control of social behavior, and inviolacy of person…

“The Senate were anxious to vote him whatever title he would accept, short of King…”

Robert Graves, I, CLAUDIUS, (Vintage Intl., 1989) p. 26.

Escape Virus Worries With Historical Fiction: Beneath A Scarlet Sky

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For Historical Fiction that will make your heart sing, I want to recommend Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan. A best seller in 2017 (when I was preoccupied finishing up Lady in Ermine)Beneath A Scarlet Sky is engaging reading for the current moment, substantively and literally.

Without any spoilers, Scarlet Sky is set in German occupied Lombardy (Sofonisba’s region) during WWII, and we get a first-hand glimpse of the human tragedy through the eyes of Pino. In the first part, Pino employs faith and sheer human will to succeed at the mission assigned to him. In the middle, his craftiness, tenacity and resolve propel him. Written in short chapters like potato chips, Scarlet Sky makes you want one more, and then another. I’m only half way through and I couldn’t resist blogging about it. Touching, moving, insightful.

While not complete escapism-the subject matter is weighty and the horrors of WWII are represented- Scarlet Sky both distracts from our current crisis and comforts too. As we feel invaded and occupied beyond control, it is good to remember the historic struggles we have overcome with tenacity of spirit. And as bad as the current moment is, there have been far worse eras in history. We can be grateful for life and for each day together.

Sofonisba is Still Forgotten? How the Met and the NY Times Continue the Long Tradition of Ghosting Sofi

Friday March 27, 2020
Madonna dell’Itria, Sofonisba Anguissola, 1570s Paterno’ Sicily
Campi, Virgin in Glory with Saints (Chapter One, Lady in Ermine)

How, after all the attention Sofonisba received in 2019 from the Prado exhibit “Dos Pintoras” (and from the publication of Lady in Ermine in 2019), can an entire article be written about one trip by one artist without even a mention of the legend he went to discover: the legendary Sofonisba Anguissola? To be fair, given our current virus, the New York Times article focuses on Anthony van Dyck in relation to the plague of Sicily that swept Palermo when van Dyck was present (1624-25). But the real back story of van Dyck’s trip is that the young artist was sent to Sicily by the Lady in Ermine herself, Catalina Micaela, to paint her son, the Vice roy of Sicily. By the year of van Dyck’s voyage to Sicily, Sofonisba had already painted Catalina Micaela multiple times, from infancy to maturity, in addition to both of her parents, her husband, her aunts and uncles, and many others of the Habsburg-Valois line.
So, while in Sicily, van Dyck took great pains to visit his patron’s portraitist, the legendary Sofonisba Anguissola. He visited her at least twice at her home in Palermo to learn from her, to draw her in his sketch book, and finally, likely because of the plague the article describes, to paint the legend on her deathbed. He ignored his own social distancing to engage with Sofonisba. To touch the hand of the woman who was mentored by Michelangelo almost a century earlier, was worth the risk.

The back story of Anthony van Dyck’s visits to the legend Sofonisba Anguissola is presented in Chapter 31 “Anthony van Dyck: Sicily 1615- November 1625” Lady in Ermine: the Story of a Woman Who Painted the Renaissance
Van Dyck (1625) Sofonisba on her Deathbed, Turin, Sabauda Gallery

Master Sofonisba Anguissola

In honor of Sofonisba’s newly recognized accomplishments and the Prado exhibition of her work, I would like to present her Boy Bitten (drawn for Michelangelo) and her Girl Laughing next to each other to accentuate Sofonisba’s effort. She conceived of these close in time and the figures and positioning show how she experimented with subtle changes. Sofonisba truly was a master Renaissance painter like her mentor Michelangelo. (Chapter 5 of Lady in Ermine).

We are so privileged to recognize her talent and effort now.

Sofonisba’s Philip II

In honor of Sofonisba Anguissola’s new-found celebrity, I wanted to place her Prado Portrait of Philip II alongside her Portrait of a Spanish Prince (San Diego Museum of Art).

Sofonisba did not know Philip as a young child, but perhaps she could envision him as one. As Giorgio Vasari says, Sofonisba had invenzione. Perhaps she envisioned the adult King Philip as he would have appeared as a boy, while employing green to represent his youth, his budding, his spring. The hat style is even the same in each painting, the King’s being a mature black and the Prince’s being in youthful green. The painting is inscribed in Latin “Philip II, son of emperor Charles V,” and that refers to only one man, the king Sofonisba served for over a decade. The inscription has been assumed to be inaccurate since she could not have seen Philip as a child. But what if she could imagine it?