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Ritratto di Dama (Sofonisba Anguissola ?)

Anguissola Lucia

(Cremona after 1535 - 1565)

This portrait is first documented in connection with the Borghese Collection in 1833, although we have no information about its provenance. A phrase on the back of the canvas – Suphonsba Cremonensis et nobili familia Anguisciola pinxit anno MDLVI – attributes it to Sofonisba Anguissola, a painter from Cremona who belonged to a noble family originally from Piacenza. Critics, however, have proposed that the work was actually painted by another of the Anguissola sisters, probably Lucia, and that Sofonisba is the subject, portrayed here before her departure for Spain, where she went in 1559-60.

Object details

olio su tela
cm 34 x 26

Salvator Rosa, 36 x 29 x 3.4 cm


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1833 (Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 20); purchased by Italian state, 1902.



  • 1994 - Cremona, Centro Culturale Santa Maria della Pietà;
  • 1995 - Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1917 - Francesco Cochetti


The provenance of this painting is still unknown. It is first documented as forming part of the Borghese Collection in the Inventario Fidecommissario of 1833, where it is described as a ‘work by Sofonisma’ a name which also appears in various Borghese inventories of the 17th and 18th centuries.

The first critic to attribute the painting to Sofonisba Anguissola was Giovanni Piancastelli (1891), based on what is written on a fragment of cloth attached to the back of the canvas. His opinion was accepted by a number of critics over the next decades, including Adolfo Venturi (1893), Raymond Fournier-Sarbovèze (1902), Roberto Longhi (1928), Aldo de Rinaldis (1939) and Paola della Pergola (1955). Yet the identity of the subject of the work was more contested: while Longhi claimed that it was a self-portrait, della Pergola proposed that the woman is Sofonisba’s sister Lucia Anguissola, the third of the six daughters of Amilcare and Bianca Ponzoni. Lucia was born in Cremona around the mid-1530s.

The first scholar to reject the attribution to Sofonisba was Giovanni Morelli (1897). Comparing the work in question with the portrait Pietro Manna, Physician from Cremona (Museo del Prado, Madrid) and the Portrait of Europa Anguissola (Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo, Brescia) – two works by Lucia – Morelli had no hesitations in ascribing the Borghese portrait to the younger sister. His theory was later revived by Flavio Caroli (1973), who maintained that Lucia painted this portrait of Sofinisba before the latter left for Spain, where she arrived in 1559 to give painting lessons to Elisabeth of Valois, wife of King Philip II.

The questions of both the artist and the subject’s identity, however, continued to be debated: Maria Kusche (1989) proposed that the work in question represents Bianca Ponzoni Anguissola, basing her hypothesis on similarities with the portrait by this name in the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, executed by Sofinisba. Yet her thesis did not persuade Anastasia Gilardi (1994), who argued that ‘the execution of the details, such as the hair and the light, or the “graininess” of the lace worn away by the illumination’ are characteristics of the style of Lucia, who compared to her sister depicts these features with less solidity and sheen. Gilardi’s thesis is also supported by the very real and intimate gesture of the figure, who is portrayed as she plays with her necklace, a detail which Lucia repeats in her Self-Portrait (Castello Sforzesco, 1557).

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 100;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 92;
  • G. Morelli, Della Pittura Italiana. Studi Storici Critici: Le Gallerie Borghese e Doria Pamphili in Roma, Milano 1897, p. 200;
  • R. Fournier-Sarlovéze, Artistes oubliés, II. Sofonisba Anguissola et ses soeurs. Paris 1902, p. 33;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 189;
  • A. De Rinaldis, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1939, p. 44; Della Pergola 1955, p. 75, n. 132;
  • F. Caroli, Per Lucia Anguissola, in "Paragone", XXIV 1973, pp. 69-73;
  • A. Gilardi, in Sofonisba Anguissola e le sue sorelle, catalogo della mostra (Cremona, 1994; Vienna 1995; Washington 1995), a cura di M. Gregori, Corsico, Milano, 1994, p. 288;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Galleria Borghese Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla pinacoteca ai depositi un museo che non ha più segreti, San Giuliano Milanese 2006, p. 42.