A self-portrait of Sofonisba

Meaning: Possibly “Ba’al has sheltered her”
Gender: Female
Pronunciation: seh-FO-nis-bah
Origin: Italian
Other forms of the name: Sophoniba, Sophonisba

The name Sofonisba is an unusual one. It comes from Sophonisba which was the name of a 3rd century B.C.E. Carthaginian Princess. Sophonisba is probably a version of her real name, Saphanba’al. Sofonisba Anguissola was a famous Italian Renassiance painter. Her family had a strong connection to the Carthaginian’s so they named their children after the General Hannibal, so she was named after the Princess who is a tragic figure of the Carthaginian’s. Princess Sophonisba poisoned herself because she did not want to be humilated by the Roman’s winning the Second Punic War.

Sofonisba Anguissola was not the only painter in her family. She had six daughters including Sofonisba, Elena, Anna Maria, Minerva, Europa, and Lucia, and one son, Asdrubale. Four of her sisters painted, the most accomplished one was Lucia who unfortunately died young. Elena had to give up painting when she became a nun, Anna Maria and Europa gave up painting when they were married, Minerva became a writer and Latin scholar, and Asdrubale studied music and Latin. Later after studying art under the guidance of Bernardino Gatti, she met Michelanglo who became to teach her as well. Because of her sex she was not able to study nudes as it was seen as inappropriate so it was difficult for her to paint certain things. But this did not hold Sofonisba back!

After painting the Duke of Alba she was invited to the Spanish court. She was basically a tutor to King Philip II’s wife. Over the years she painted Philip II, Queen Elisabeth of Spain, Philip’s sister Juana, and Anne of Austria. Philip II eventually wished for her to be married to one of the nobles but found out she was already engaged. He paid a dowry of twelve thousand pounds for her marriage to Don Francisco de Moncada. After Don’s death she met Orazio Lomellio who she proposed to, they were married a little bit afterwards. She died at the of ninety-three, her husband put this inscription on her tomb:

“To Sofonisba, my wife … who is recorded among the illustrious women of the world, outstanding in portraying the images of man … Orazio Lomellino, in sorrow for the loss of his great love, in 1632, dedicated this little tribute to such a great woman.”