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Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade; Reprint edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425238709
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425238707
  • ASIN: B0057DB18A
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #982,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
There is little reading more intriguing than well done historical fiction. Lynn Cullen raises this genre to new heights with her intriguing, richly visualized THE CREATION OF EVE. Based on the life of the first woman painter to achieve any degree of recognition during the Renaissance, Sofonisba Anguissola, the author transports us to the 16th century courts of Spain and France, each alive with rankling jealousies, harbored dreams, and clever machinations.

As a child of 7 Sofonisba was inspired by a picture of the Madonna and Child in a local church. Borrowing her printer father's quill and paper she drew her own picture. He was so impressed by her talent that he ignored the disdainful laughter of their Cremona neighbors, "A girl taking up a man's craft, and such a dirty one at that. Who is going to marry her now?" In time he chose some of her work and sent it to the Maestro, Michelangelo, who invited her to come to Rome to study. An impossibility for a girl in that day and time, yet it happened to Sofonisba who would become a portraitist because women were not allowed o study "from the nude or from the dissection of a cadaver."

At Michelangelo's studio she met and fell in love with a young sculptor, Tiberio Calcagni. There is a brief moment of coupling, which Sofi fears might ruin not only herself but Tiberio and bring shame to her beloved father. So, when she is invited by the mightiest of rulers, King Philip II of Spain, to teach his 13-year-old wife, Queen Elisabeth, painting and serve as her lady-in-waiting Sofi does not hesitate.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Ellis Bell VINE VOICE on March 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Sofonisba Anguissola was one of the foremost female artists of the Renaissance. Born in a small town in Italy, she studied in Rome under Michelangelo, and became a lady in waiting and art teacher to Elizabeth of Valois who became Queen of Spain when she married King Filipe. While there, Sofonisba witnesses the budding relationship between Elizabeth and the King's young half brother, Don Juan.

If you're looking for a story that's solely about Sofonisba you might be a bit disappointed. She's more of a witness to what's going on around her, rather an active participant in the story. Although Sofinisba led an interesting life herself, it's Elizabeth, Felipe, and the Spanish court that take the stage here, and it's an excellent story, well told. Like another reader here, I was very surprised by, and interested in, the author's treatment of Felipe. I guess I, too, am too use to England-based novels set during this time period, which depict him as a cruel monster. Elizabeth is rather silly, naïve, and pathetic in the way that she behaves, but that doesn't stop the reader from ultimately feeling sympathetic towards her. In the end, the reader realizes that Sofi and Elizabeth are very similar; they're both trapped in positions they didn't choose to be in, unable to make their own decisions about their lives.

I also loved the heavy amount of historical details that are in this book. The author obviously did a lot of research to get her story to feel authentic, and her hard work has paid off here. Everything is described in minute detail, without those details bogging down the natural flow of the story. The author's writing style reminds me a lot of that of Sarah Dunant--both in tone and content.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By P. Bigelow VINE VOICE on March 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Cullen introduces us to Sofonisba Anguissola, the first well known woman artist of the Renaissance. In this fictional account, we follow Sofonisba from her studies with Michelangelo to the Spanish Court where she becomes a lady-in-waiting and an art teacher.

Even though she leaves Michaelangelo after a dalliance, that may or may not have been sexual, with another student, Sofonisba doesn't learn from the consequences of that act when she moves on to the Spanish Court. Instead, she joins in the young Queen's escapades. Considering how she had suffered over her dalliance in Italy, it seems incongruous that she would jeopardize her position at the Spanish Court. Even so, she becomes famous for her portraits.

Cullen's research seems to have been thorough. Cullen seamlessly works her historical details into her fiction.

This book is a good read. Anyone who enjoys historical fiction will undoubtedly find this an enjoyable read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lola092563 on July 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The book didn't stray too far away from the facts of history; and the dramatic license the author took for conversations, etc., seemed plausible & fit the epoch & circumstances. She writes Felipe II carefully, as she does his young wife, Elizabeth of Valois. Not giving us an open door to their hearts/minds, but a window. Mostly they are seen from the eyes of the book's central character, Sofonisba Anguisolla; and their stories unfold and are told through her. Sofonisba is a talented Italian portrait artist, sent to the Spanish court after a "faux pas" let's say, with a fellow artist. She relates her experiences at the Spanish court as both a Lady in Waiting to the young Queen (and friend) and as a frustrated artist (not really allowed to sign her own work, as it would be unseemly in her position as Lady in Waiting), as well as a woman confused herself about love & marriage.

There are several plot lines; the marriage (and happiness, unhappiness, treachery or adultry?) between Felipe & Elizabeth; Elizabeth's attempts to adjust to a stultified court life, Michaelangelo & The Inquisition, even a little about Felipe's interest in the new world of America and it's products.

The cool thing is; recently I visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, MA. I had just finished reading this book and as I viewed the impressive collection of art Mrs. Gardner acquired in her lifetime - what do I see on the wall? A painting of Juana of Austria (Felipe II's sister) attributed to Sofonisba Aguisolla! The information card that went with the portrait explained that most of Anguisolla's portraits were unattributed, but art scholars have recently identified many - including the one hanging at the Gardner Museum.
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