about 1556
Sofonisba Anguissola (Italian (Cremonese), about 1532–1625)


8.3 x 6.4 cm (3 1/4 x 2 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Varnished watercolor on parchment

Not On View





Set in a metal frame with scroll surmount.

Praised by her contemporaries as the foremost woman painter of her day, Anguissola executed more self-portraits than any other artist in the period between Dürer and Rembrandt. This miniature displays the artist’s meticulous technique and a Renaissance taste for puzzles: the interwoven letters at the center of the medallion form a monogram or phrase that has been satisfactorily explained. Around the rim, the medallion is inscribed in Latin: “The maiden Sofonisba Anguissola, depicted by her own hand, from a mirror, at Cremona.”


By 1801, Richard Gough (b. 1735 - d. 1809), London [see note 1]. By 1862, Henry Danby Seymour (b. 1820 - d. 1877), Ashridge [see note 2]; by descent to his niece, Miss Jane Margaret Seymour (b. 1873 - d. 1943), Knoyle, Wiltshire; May 9, 1928, Seymour sale, Sotheby's, London, lot 61. November 9, 1959, anonymous sale ("the property of a lady"), Sotheby's, London, lot 28, to F. Kleinberger and Co., New York; 1960, sold by Kleinberger to the MFA for $3,000. (Accession Date: March 10, 1960)

[1] For the history of this miniature, see "Catalogue of Fine Portrait Miniatures, Scientific Instruments, Watches, and Objects of Vertu," Sotheby's, London, November 9, 1959, lot 28. The work was recorded in the Gough collection in "Gentlemen's Quarterly," October 1801, p. 897.

[2] Henry Danby Seymour lent the work to the South Kensington Museum as early as 1862, and, according to a letter from Harry G. Sperling of Kleinberger to the MFA (November 12, 1959), from 1912 to 1928, J. M. Seymour lent it to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Information about the dates of these loans (but not about the lenders) is confirmed in the 1959 auction catalogue (as above, n. 1).

Credit Line

Emma F. Munroe Fund