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?

Sofonisba and her Portrait of Philip II, King of Spain

On this day, October 21st, in 1561, Sofonisba sent her regrets to Bernardino Campi, “Molto Magnifico Signor Bernardino,” her first trainer, explaining that she could not yet send him a portrait of the king. “Non posso al presente servirlo, come saria mio desiderio.” She was occupied painting the king’s sister Juana and Queen Isabel. In addition, she was busy with the queen who was eager to learn, “vuol gran parte del tempo per lei per dipingere.” Cremona Catalogue, (1994, p 89). 

These events are reflected in Part II of Lady in Ermine (1560-1572).

Looking forward to the Sofonisba exhibit at the Prado Museum in Madrid opening October 22, 2019.

Sofonisba and King Philip II at the Prado Museum

Philip II King of Spain was fond of Sofonisba and admired her work, praising her in words and gold.

In the final days of 1579, Sofonisba married Orazio Lomellini, a ship captain from a prominent Genoan family, without obtaining the consent of her family. Even though her marriage to Orazio began as a quasi-elopement, King Philip II commemorated it by sending Sofonisba a wedding present, yet another lifetime pension, along with a letter acknowledging her industry, ingenuity and devotion to his family. 

“industiae, ingenij et sedulitatis a devota nobis sincera dilecta Sofonisba una ex pedissequis serenissimae quondam reginae Isabelli uxoris nostre carissime prestitare colentes cui ob virtutes proprias et ingenij dotes fuit acceptissima nec non come matrimonij nuper ab ea cum devoto nobis dilecto Horatio Lomellini…”(Cremona Catalogue, 388)

I’m looking forward to viewing Sofonisba’s Portrait of Philip II next week (at the Prado Museum exhibit honoring the work of Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana) and experience how Sofonisba captured the king’s eyes.