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.


I’m eager to return to the Prado Museum in Madrid in a few weeks for a close up inspection of Sofonisba’s Portrait of Philip II which I last viewed in storage in 2009 with the kind permission of Leticia Ruiz, curator of the upcoming exhibit. I originally met Dr. Ruiz through my association with Maria Kusche at Progetto Sofonisba in Palermo, February 2008.

Maria Kusche describes in her book Sofonisba Anguissola Renaissance Woman, written with Sylvia Ferino-Pagden (NMWA, 1995), that x-rays show that the portrait was altered to include a heavy cape and the rosary. Originally, Philip was posed with his hand on his chest. In Lady in Ermine, I link Sofonisba’s adjustment to the tragedies affecting Philip’s life. 

Sofonisba’s sensitivity to Philip II’s life events is one sign of her immersion at the Spanish court.