Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Naomi Yavneh, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Maria Cizmic, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Giovanna Benadusi, Ph.D.


Sofonisba Anguissola, Fathers, Family relationships, Female portraiture


Women have long been termed "the weaker sex" in regards to physical ability, intellectual capacity, or moral character. Although this designation has since been proven to be false on every level, this categorization of females as lesser creatures than males is a stigma borne by women throughout history. This thesis has a narrow focus on the role and representation of aristocratic Early Modern daughters before they become wives and mothers, and on Sofonisba Anguissola, a female Renaissance painter, as a daughter in particular. An examination of Sofonisba primarily as a daughter, and only secondarily as a female artist, will help to clarify the traditional role of Renaissance daughters, while emphasizing the unique bond between Sofonisba and her father.

While daughters of the nobility seem to disappear into the domestic realm presided over by the mother, they were, in fact, actively included in the family dynamics, and were included in the concerns of the father as well as the mother. It was commonplace to train daughters in the domestic arts with only rudimentary academic instruction, although some forward-thinking fathers bestowed upon their daughters an education similar to or equal to the education received by their sons. Sofonisba Anguissola was an exception to the rule, and was able to maintain her chaste, demure, and obedient reputation as Amilcare's daughter, while embarking on a lifelong career as a painter, and as an innovator in the genre of domestic painting.

This thesis focuses on the father-daughter relationship specifically between Amilcare and Sofonisba. The social acceptance of the entrance into the traditionally male-dominated public sphere of art by this extraordinary woman, with the encouragement and support of her father, will be discussed in detail. The impact of the encouragement of Amilcare, and how this promotion of Sofonisba's abilities allowed her to achieve not only public accomplishments and distinction for her family, but for herself as an individual as well has traditionally been marginalized in discussions of the role of women in Renaissance society.