(b. ca. 1530, Cremona, d. 1625, Palermo)

Bernardino Campi Painting Sofonisba Anguissola

c. 1559
Oil on canvas, 111 x 110 cm
Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena

One of the period's most inventive portraitists came from Cremona. The noblewoman Sofonisba Anguissola created wry and witty portraits of family members and acquaintances, a subject largely imposed upon her by societal restrictions on female access to models and patrons. Sofonisba's painting of her teacher, painting her portrait - a story within a story - demonstrates how she negotiated her male-dominated world. Anguissola's gaze rivets the viewer of the painting, forcing consideration of what appears to be the inscribing of male authority on the body of the female. Campi's gaze complicates matters, however, since as he paints he, too, looks out of the painting toward what the picture indicates must be his subject, Anguissola. Thus the viewer in front of the painting plays a double role: that of the subject of the painting within the painting, namely Anguissola herself, and of an engaged viewer - watched by both Campi and Anguissola - made complicit in Anguissola's destabilizing of contemporary social norms.