Sofonisba Anguissola, Self-portrait while Painting the Madonna and Child, 1556. Oil on canvas.
Inscription on the painting reads:
“I, Sofonisba Anguissola, unmarried, am the
equal of the Muses and Apelles in playing my
songs and handling my paints.”
Anguissola painted during the Renaissance in the court of Philip II of Spain (she was also the first woman to do so). In the inscription, not only does Anguissola compare herself to Apelles, highly celebrated painter of antiquity, she also compares herself to the muses who are allegorical inspirations for the arts. The inscription shows that Anguissola identifies herself as the heir or successor of the classical principles that fueled the Renaissance, an equal to her male contemporaries.