Auguri Sofonisba, Your Work Lives On

Beautiful Restoration of Sofonisba’s Madonna dell”Itria

Here’s how I saw it in Paterno` in 2006. They have done a terrific job enhancing the color. Well done Museo Civico di Cremona and Silvia Galli.

Church of the Santissima Annunziata, Paterno`
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

Sofonisba’s Legacy of Invezione Today


I’m delighted to read of Genova’s successful near-completion of the bridge that collapsed so very recently, in 2018. It gives me a feeling of optimism, literally a bridge for the future, inspiring.

I can’t resist connecting the success of this modern-day project with Sofonisba’s life of creative invention (invenzione/inventione). Sofonisba and her husband lived in Genoa from 1580 to 1615 before transferring to Sicily. During her time in Genoa, she continued to innovate, to paint high and low, and to influence artists, some of whom followed her footsteps to the Spanish court to contribute to the Escorial and the Spanish Habsburg collection. Her work and her mentoring of the next generation (the way Michelangelo mentored her) were formative to the artistic, creative, dynamic life of Genoa in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Four hundred years later, that creativity can make your heart sing.

Sofonisba Anguissola and International Travel

Holy Family, Flight to Egypt, Sofonisba Anguissola, 1559, Bergamo Cararra

Life gave Sofonisba incredible opportunities for travel. In an era when many people barely left their hometowns, Sofonisba traveled throughout northern Italy to present her work. She sailed Genoa to Barcelona then rode through Spain to serve at the Spanish court. She sailed 6 more major voyages on the Mediterranean Sea. Her life was a virtual travel guide.

If you want some arm chair travel with historical fiction, go ahead and follow Sofonisba’s life.

The Chess Game

The Chess Game (1555) Museum Narodow Poznan, Poland. By 1600, Chess Game is at the Roman estate of Fulvio Orsini. Cat. 43

Just last week the Wall Street Journal published an article about hobbies and diversions and referenced Sofonisba’s Chess Game painted in 1555. WSJ spoke of the hobbies that entertained the nobility. What Sofonisba enthusiasts see in the painting is the ingenuity of her work and the subversive messages of female power embedded in the chess game they play and the facial expressions they make. This was not an image of mere diversion. It was feminist enlightenment, 500 years before the me-too movement. Chapter 4, Chess Game, Cremona 1555, Lady in Ermine: The Story of a Woman Who Painted the Renaissance.

Sofonisba was not shallow. Nor are her enthusiasts.

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