“Lady In Ermine will make your heart sing!”
“She wasn’t content to merely marry or become a nun.
She was one of the most successful female artists of the Renaissance, yet you likely don’t know her name.
Michelangelo and Vasari praised her talent.
Sofonisba Anguissola was an incredibly talented woman who defied the conventions of her time. Her aristocratic father was mocked for letting her do so, yet he believed she had a mind as well as a soul and helped her pursue her dreams as she becomes a court painter.
If you love historical fiction, Italy, art, and the Renaissance, The Lady in Ermine by Donna DiGiuseppe will make your heart sing. This is a tale of court intrigue, family drama, politics, art, and romance too. Walk into the Spanish and Medici courts and rediscover the life and times of a lady artist whose story was almost lost to time.
Vivid and compelling, Lady in Ermine draws readers into a complicated web of well-formed characters. One would never know that DiGiuseppe is a debut author; her work is so well-researched, organized, thorough, and imaginative. And despite taking place in the 1500s, Sofonisba feels contemporary and relatable. As a reader, I can’t help but research and learn more about the life and times of this remarkable lady. I think that’s the effect the very best historical fiction has upon its audience. Well done, Donna DiGiuseppe!”
-Jennifer Melville San Francisco Book Review
“What reader could not fall in love with a heroine—a female Renaissance painter, no less—as she strives to preserve the artistic integrity and honesty of her work? In her debut biographical novel, Donna DiGiuseppe features the travails of the fascinatingly prodigious Sofonisba Anguissola, a portraitist praised by Leonardo and Vasari, who rose from obscure beginnings in Cremona, Lombardy to portray King Phillip II, his wife, and other notorious personages of her 16th-century world. The story shines especially bright and warm in the first half, as we get to know Sofi, called so lovingly by her family, struggling to pursue her calling in the home of a doting father, who educates his daughter and promotes her genius regardless of the contemporary disregard for female creativity. The plot turns menacing when Sofonisba joins the Spanish court as lady-in-waiting to Queen Isabella and makes an enemy of the Cardinal of Burgos, who threatens to ruin her reputation and to cut short her career before it has begun. Through her strength of character, Sofonisba prevails and eventually returns to Italy, where she marries and dies in her eighties, the art world of Europe and an adoring Anthony van Dyck at her feet.
Lady in Ermine is an ambitious work of literature, spanning seven decades and various countries. It includes a cast of characters, an author’s note, historical research, and, conveniently, a list of paintings referenced in the story, enabling the reader visually to celebrate Sofonisba’s oeuvre. The second half of the book would have benefited from more editorial attention, but the overall reading experience is both satisfactory and illuminating.”
-Elizabeth Lenkos, Historical Novel Society
As a girl in Lombardy, Sofonisba trains to paint with Mannerist masters, and though society takes a dim view of women having such ambition, Sofonisba’s father nevertheless encourages her. A royal tour by Prince Philip of Spain sparks her lifelong dream: to perfect the king’s portrait and show his truth on canvas, the loftiest calling for a Renaissance portraitist.
Sofonisba is driven by her efforts to vindicate her loving father, a bastard of nobility. Politics of the Spanish empire brings Sofonisba to the center of the Madrid’s royal court. She aspires to achieve her goal while others at court try to undermine her as a female artist. When tragedy falls upon the royal household, Sofonisba finds her opportunity to paint the King of Spain, honoring her family name with her success. In life after court, Sofonisba endures two marriages, royal appointments, love, hardship, and bankruptcy, leaving a legacy of hundreds of paintings and influencing generations of artists from Anthony van Dyck to Peter Paul Rubens.
Inspired by her Italian grandparents’ immigration story, Donna DiGiuseppe studied Humanities and Italian history at UC Berkeley and in Venice, Italy. Tracing her roots to a hilltop village in Abruzzo, Donna toured Italy from Milan to Palermo to rediscover a piece of Italian history. Donna fell in love with Sofonisba Anguissola when she held Sofonisba’s 1559 Holy Family. Donna has been inside Sofonisba’s childhood home and has laid flowers at her gravesite.
-Art In Fiction – read more here
“No one knows her name, but thanks to Donna DiGiuseppe’s enthralling biographical novel, we can all learn the remarkable story of the Renaissance’s most successful female artist. Michelangelo recognized her genius; Vasari praised her talent. Caught up in court intrigues, family squabbles, and political upheavals, “Sofi” emerges as a full-bodied woman and sensitive artist who lived by her brush at a time when women’s only options were marriage or nunneries. LADY IN ERMINE elegantly weaves together rich historical details, finely etched characters, and a compelling plot to create a vivid portrait of a talented woman who defied the conventions of her times. This romantic saga brings to life a long-overlooked page in history and is sure to delight lovers of Italy, art, and history.“
–Dianne Hales, Author, Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered and La Bella Lingua
“Sofonisba’s extraordinary story is well situated in the turbulent politics of the time. In an enthralling tale of what might have been, Di Giuseppe succeeds admirably in capturing the elusive voices of an exceptional Renaissance woman and her family.”
–Patricia Fortini Brown, Professor Emerita of Art & Archaeology, Princeton University
“Debut author, Donna DiGiuseppe, has pulled the velvet draperies back to reveal an astonishing life – the late Renaissance painter, Sofonisba Anguissola. DiGiuseppe’s research details the swarthy worlds of the sublime Spanish and magnificent Medici courts while the specter of the Inquisition hovers. Delivered in a clear style, DiGiuseppe hand feeds her readers rich intrigues in an historical feast. Fans of historical fiction and creative nonfiction will embrace Lady in Ermine’s rendering of a great woman painter almost lost to the annals of art history.”
-Pamela Livingston, Program Manager, The Book Passage
“LADY IN ERMINE dramatizes the life of the brilliant, talented, and resilient Renaissance painter, Sofonisba Anguissola. The book portrays the challenges and societal constraints that Sofonisba overcame to become a remarkable and successful artist. Donna DiGiuseppe delivers a human story of one woman’s ambition, sacrifice, romance, and loneliness in her quest for acceptance. The author graces the reader with well-drawn characters, dialogue, and a cinematic feel that give us a rich vision of the Renaissance.”
-Fr. James S. Galluzzo, Author, The Spirituality of Mary Magdalene
From Reader Reviews
“Loved the book. Couldn’t put it down. An incredibly talented woman who, with her father’s unconditional encouragement, became a sought-after portraitist in a time in history when only men were held in high esteem as artists.” –Stephen Weiner, San Francisco
“This novel is such a find! The book has Jane Austin themes – a strong female protagonist whose ambitions are challenged…Donna Di Giuseppe has a way of making you feel like you are getting the inside scoop of what’s happening inside those castles by learning about Sofi’s story inside the Spanish court.” – Maria
“This book, along with the artwork of Sofonisba Anguissola, have impacted me deeply and, I think, permanently.” – Charlene’s Reviews
“WOW….had not expected to fall in love with this book. It was our book club pick for July….I have not read a book in a while that captured my attention and was a book I did not want to put down. “ -Tammy Amburgey
“Fantastic novel! This is great if you love The Renaissance a must read.” – Jane Maloney
“Beautifully told tale of an intriguing and inspiring artist. Definitely worth reading!” -Papri