From Publishers Weekly
The largely unknown story of female Renaissance painter Sofonisba Anguissola (c. 1532–1625) is beautifully imagined here in YA novelist Cullen's sparkling adult debut. In a page-turning tale that brings to life the undercurrent of political, romantic, and interfamily rivalries in the court of Spanish King Felipe II, the author shines a light on Sofonisba, who is brought under the tutelage of Michelangelo and later appointed as a lady-in-waiting for the king's 14-year-old wife, Elisabeth, to whom she becomes a close confidante. The author offers an intriguing vision of what life was like for women of different economic and political stations at that time, and she also takes care to not short-shrift the specifics of Sofonisba's art and methods. Cullen has found a winning subject in Sofonisba, whose broken heart as a young woman colors her perceptions and judgment about the queen and her imperious husband, as well as the young Elizabeth's attraction to the king's brother, and Elizabeth's odd relationship with the king's son from his first marriage. Ongoing references to the Spanish Inquisition and the life of the controversial Michelangelo add depth to this rich story. (Mar.)
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Everyone has heard of Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci, but few are familiar with Renaissance painter Sofonisba Anguissola. Cullen, best-selling author of the YA hit I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter (2007), corrects this oversight with this finely textured fictional biography. One of the most celebrated portraitists of her day, Sofonisba honed her craft despite the double standard applied to both her life and her work. Denied the artistic and personal freedom granted even to men of lesser talent, she is forced to flee her native Italy in the wake of a sexually charged scandal. In her new role as painting instructor and lady-in-waiting to young Queen Elisabeth of Spain, Sofi is an intimate witness to the intrigues and maneuverings of King Felipe’s royal court. As Sofi and Elisabeth grow closer, it becomes apparent that each, in her own way, is an innocent victim of gender and class restrictions. Still, in every situation, Sofi always has her art, a treasured gift that enables her to rise above the artificially imposed margins proscribed by Renaissance culture and society. Cullen does a magnificent job reinvigorating a still-life portrait of an all-but-forgotten maestra. --Margaret Flanagan
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