Self Portrait at the Easel Painting a Devotional Panel (1556). Sofonisba Anguissola (Italian, 1532-1625). Oil on canvas.
Sofonisba’s earliest paintings were self-portraits that testify to her discreta modestia. Female virtue was founded in chastity and included obedience, modesty, and silence. Her demeanor and simple dress, usually a near black jacket with a white lace collar, conform to these aspects of virtue.
Sofonisba depicts herself painting an image of the Madonna and Child. Besides attesting to her skills as an accomplished painter, it also suggests her piety. It is significant that her religious paintings are not narrative representations but rather devotional images.