10. SummarySofonisba Anguissola (Cremona 1532/35-Palermo 1625) reached a certain fame as a painter in the Italian Renaissance. Her family was part of the aristocracy in Cremona, and her father promoted her work. She is the eldest of seven children and her sisters were also painters. Her fame reached its peak when she was invited to Spain in 1559 as a Lady-in-waiting for the queen of Spain, Isabel of Valois, who showed a special interest in the art of painting. The focal point of my thesis is one of Sofonisba s most known works called The Chess Game (ill. I, 1555), which shows three of her sisters around a chess board and their nurse watching them. This research can be considered the first thorough analysis of this painting. In my analysis I have emphasized the aspect of chess. I have found that chess has a distinct reference to intellect, and within her social class, the allusion to the intellect is an important factor. Chess confirms the girls intellectual background and their training within language and music as a self-evident part of the education of the children of the upper class. In this particular painting, chess is the focal point that creates the action and liveliness.
I present a selection of other chess paintings from the 16th century for comparison. I have chosen a more narrow comparison between Two Chess Players (ill. VIII, 1540) by Paris Bordone, Two Chess Players (ill. IX, 1585) by Ludovico Carracci and The Chess Game (ill. VI, 1545) by Giulio Campi and Sofonisbas work under a common criterion that they are painted in the same medium (oil on canvas). Each painting demonstrates Italian Mannerism and is painted by North Italian painters. After studying these paintings, I have found that chess is used to allude to the intellect of the portrayed players. What differentiates the chess paintings is the way the players are presented. Sofonisba is the only female among them, and also the only one to present a game between only women. I have found only one other example of chess between women; Queen Semiramis playing chess with her servant (ill. XVIII), and one other showing children as chess players (ill. XIX). This makes Sofonisba s portrait stand out. Bordone and Carracci present two men playing a game of heightened intelligence. Campi shows a woman and a man playing the game, and, in this way, alludes to the love between the sitters. Chess has a competitive aspect but contains traditionally also an aspect of war. The analogy of war is not present in these paintings.
Another focal point in my thesis is an attempt to contribute to an alternative way of analyzing women s art and in particular the art of Sofonisba Anguissola. The present studies of her art focus mainly on her role as a woman in the society of the Renaissance and her portraits are analyzed in close connection with her sex. Most literature about Sofonisba is written by women. My main discussion and criticism centers around the article Here s Looking at Me: Sofonisba Anguissola and the Problem of the Woman Artist by Mary D. Garrard. She has done the closest examination of The Chess Game so far. Part of her analysis is strongly influenced by feminist thoughts, and part of my criticism towards her is concentrated on her use of modern concepts like active/passive and subject/object in her discussion of Sofonisba s art, which I do not find relevant or useful in the understanding of her art. The use of these concepts contributes to a certain misinterpretation of Sofonisba's work.