Two Loans from the Nivaagaards Malerisamling on Display at the Gemäldegalerie

31.05.2021
Gemäldegalerie

As part of the collaboration between the Gemäldegalerie and the Danish Nivaagaards Malerisamling in Nivå, in 2022, the work Portrait of Bianca Ponzoni, Mother of the Renaissance Painter Sofonisba Anguissola (cat. no. 1705, acquired 1913) will be included in a monographic exhibition in Denmark on this major woman artist from Lombardy. In exchange, from May to October 2021, two works from the Danish museum will be on display at the Gemäldegalerie. The first is the famous family portrait of Sofonisba’s father, Amilcare Anguissola, together with his daughter Minerva and son Asdrubale. The second is the portrait of an old woman, which has come to be interpreted as a self-portrait by Sofonisba, and originates from the circle of the Anguissola sisters.

The Nivaagaard Malerisamling

The Nivaagaard Malerisamling was originally the private collection of the politician, merchant and landowner, Johannes Hage (1842 to 1923). He founded the art collection between 1895 and 1905. It was made up of works of Renaissance and Baroque art, as well as the work of Danish painters of the 19th century. Hage’s modest but impressive collection of Old Masters was put together thanks to recommendations by respected art historians such as Karl Madsen, Gustavo Frizzoni and Cornelis Hofstede de Groot. It includes works by Lucas Cranach, Bernardino Luini, Giovanni Bellini, Lorenzo Lotto, Cima da Conegliano, Paris Bordon, Bonifazio Veronese, Giuliano Bugiardini, Ferdinand Bol, Rembrandt, Gerard Dou, Gerard ter Borch, Jan Steen, Meindert Hobbema, Gabriel Metsu, Jacob van Ruisdael, Salomon van Ruysdael, Cornelis de Vos, Jan van Goyen, Aert van der Neer, Adriaen van de Velde, Philips Wouwerman and Claude Lorrain. In 1908, Johannes Hage opened his collection to the public, and the museum became a state-recognised institution in 1983.

The Successful Portrait Painter Sofonisba Anguissola

Sofonisba Anguissola (born in Cremona in 1532 and died in Palermo after 12 July 1629) was one of the most successful portrait painters of the 16th century. Her mother came from a noble family, though not an artistic one, as was typical for female painters at the time. Together with her sister Elena, Sofonisba learnt her trade in the workshop of Bernardo Campi, and then that of Bernardino Gatti in Cremona. In 1559, the 27-year-old was recruited to the Spanish court, where she worked as a lady’s companion and art teacher to the young queen, Isabel de Valois.
In 1571, Sofonisba married the Sicilian nobleman Fabrizio Moncada from Palermo, and left the Madrid court. After Moncada’s death in 1579, the painter married the Genoan ship’s captain Orazio Lomellini (1584–1625), and went on to spend several decades in the capital of Liguria. Sofonisba then spent the final years of her long life in Palermo, where, almost 100 years old and blind, she was visited by Anthony van Dyck (1599 – 1641), who was an admirer of her work.

Fascinating Reunion of her Masterpieces

The supposed portrait of the artist’s mother, Bianca Ponzoni, was acceded to the collection of Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie in 1913. It is signed and dated as 1557, but is not mentioned in any contemporaneous sources.

In contrast, the family portrait of Sofonisba’s father Amilcare Anguissola with his daughter Minerva and son Asdrubale was described and praised in the work of one of the pioneers of modern art history, Giorgio Vasari. Vasari travelled to Cremona in 1566 with the intention of admiring Sofonisba’s works at the home of Amilcare Anguissolas. Sofonisba had left Cremona in 1559 for Madrid, meaning that the uncompleted work can be dated between 1558 and 1559. The age of her brother, Asdrubale, who was born in 1551, also supports this estimate.