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.

Sofonisba Painted Catalina Micaela, the Lady in Ermine, Infanta of Spain, as a child and an adult

Sofonisba Anguissola first painted Catalina Micaela, Infanta of Spain, the Lady in Ermine, when Catalina Micaela was a child.


Sofonisba Anguissola rendered a miniature painting of each Infanta of Spain in a Book of Hours, previously owned by the French King Francois I who passed it to his daughter in law Catherine de Medici on his death in 1547. Catherine possessed this Book of Hours for forty-two years and inserted family portraits of their line into the Book of Hours along the way. It contains an anonymous portrait of Catalina Michaela’s parents Isabel and Philip II, and a portrait of each Infanta, Isabella Clara Eugenia and Catalina Micaela as children, both of which are attributed to Sofonisba Anguissola (Bibliotheque Nationale, MS n.a.l, 82, fol. 196, see Gazette Des Beaux-Arts December 2002, “Catherine de Medici and Her Two Spanish Granddaughters: Iconographical Additions from a French Sixteenth-Century Book of Hours” by Dana Bentley-Cranch. (307-318, 311).

Sofonisba knew Catalina Micaela, the Lady in Ermine, cradle to grave, just like she knew the line of Spanish Habsburgs– personally and intimately.