The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola Book Review

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Set in the sixteenth-century, The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola tells the story of a woman’s passion for painting and adventure.

About The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola

Set in the sixteenth-century, The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola tells the story of a woman’s passion for painting and adventure. In a world where women painters had little to no acknowledgment, she was singled out by Michelangelo and Vasari who recognized and praised her talent. Gaining the Milanese elite’s acclaim, she went on to become court painter to Spanish King Philip II and taught his queen to paint. One can’t live such an extraordinary life without having stories to tell, and tell them Sofonisba does to Sir Anthony Van Dyke, who comes to visit her toward the end of her life. During their meeting, she agrees to reveal her secrets but first challenges the younger painter to find the one lie hidden in her tale. In a saga filled with intrigue, jealousy, buried treasure, unrequited love, espionage, and murder, Sofonisba’s story is played out against the backdrop of Italy, Spain, and Sicily. Throughout her life, she encounters talented artists, authoritative dukes, mad princes, religious kings, spying queens, vivacious viscounts, and dashing sea captains—even a Barbary pirate. But of all the people who fell in love with Sofonisba, only one captured her heart. The painter may have many secrets but the truth of her life is crystal clear from the beginning. Always a strong, passionate woman with a dream, she was an intelligent artist who knew her self-worth and in the end, as Michelangelo had done for her, Sofonisba passed her brush to a new generation.

My Thoughts

Sofonisba is a painter and a master story creator. This novel paints a vibrant story of an incredible, strong, independent woman as she navigates a male dominated field and time.

Sofonisba was born in the 1500s to a noble family who were rich in love, family and the belief of the power of a woman. Sofonisba and her sisters were each born with different gifts – hers being the gift of art and painting. Her portraits and paintings come to life with the way she captures the spirit of the moment and the individual. Her parents supported her love of art and ensured that she studied under the greats, both locally and in Rome. She quickly captures the eyes of some powerful people and she travels to the Spanish court, where her life takes some ups and downs. She led a life of passion, love and no regrets, full of adventure and danger.

Her story is one of mystery, adventure and inspiration. She was born during a time when women were not encouraged to paint and express themselves, and although she faced discrimination (she was not allowed to further her studies and paint bodies in the nude) she excelled in her paintings. She threw concepts of marriage and motherhood out the window – she decided who and when to love, although ultimately she ended in an arranged marriage at the ago of 40! She kept us on our toes throughout the novel with her sharp wit, sense of humour and adventure. She was and still is, an inspiration to female artists, she knew exactly what her self-worth was and did not accept any less from others around her. This is a definite must read novel, full of passion, history and mystery.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Bookshop.

Rating: 5/5

About the Author

Melissa Muldoon is the author of four novels set in Italy: Dreaming Sophia, Waking Isabella, Eternally Artemisia, and The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola. All four books tell the stories of women and their journeys of self-discovery to find love, uncover hidden truths, and follow their destinies to shape a better future for themselves. Melissa is also the author of the Studentessa Matta website, where she promotes the study of Italian language and culture through her dual-language blog written in Italian and English (studentessamatta.com). Studentessa Matta means the “crazy linguist” and has grown to include a podcast, Tutti Matti per l’Italiano and the Studentessa Matta, YouTube channel, Facebook page and Instagram feed. Melissa also created Matta Italian Language Immersion Programs, which she co-leads with Italian schools in Italy to learn Italian in Italy. Through her website, she also offers the opportunities to live and study in Italy through Homestay programs. Melissa has a B.A. in fine arts, art history, and European history from Knox College, a liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, as well as a master’s degree in art history from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She has also studied painting and art history in Florence. She is an artist, designer, and illustrated the cover art for all four of her books. Melissa is the managing director of Matta Press

You can connect with her on her website, Twitter and Facebook.

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Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review, all opinions expressed are my own.

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2 thoughts on “The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola Book Review
  1. Pingback: 👸🏻👸🏻👸🏻👸🏻👸🏻 A review of Waking Isabella by Melissa Muldoon – Books Lattes & Tiaras

  2. Pingback: 👸🏻👸🏻👸🏻👸🏻👸🏻 A review of Eternally Artesimia by Melissa Muldoon – Books Lattes & Tiaras

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