Life interrupted my intention to resume my posts on Hints and Echoes. Sorry about that to you who follow the site and were expecting to hear from me.
Have you ever heard of Sofonisba Anguissola? Neither had I before I recently read a brief article in the newspaper about her. She was an Italian Renaissance painter born to a relatively poor noble family. Because of her gender she was not allowed to take live drawing classes, but encouraged by her father, she studied painting with master artists of the time.
She had five sisters who were often her subjects and she is also noted for her self portraits.
Frequently her work was attributed to male painters, but she was rediscovered in the 1970s (by the feminists) and the true body of her work revealed.
I think she is an absolute genius in her ability to convey complex human emotions. In this painting we understand without effort just what these sisters are feeling, because we have all been in that particular emotional position at one time or another. The big sister looks at us directly. She’s utterly confident she’s going to win the game but will do so without passion or gloating because she is simply appeasing the little sister. She’s just a bit bored by it all. Isn’t this how we feel when we pretend to play a competitive game with our own children? And how often have we felt that we have demonstrated our superiority in some matter but come to the realization, like the middle sister, that in fact we are outclassed. Oops. That’s embarrassing. And of course the darling little sister is experiencing the schadenfreude we have all felt on occasion.
The servant clearly doesn’t quite understand what chess is all about, but she realizes something important is going on here besides the actual game. Other famous painters express human emotion of course, but I don’t think any of them do it better than Anguissola, and I think she should be more well known. So I’m doing my part by telling you.