This Female Italian Artist Broke Barriers in the Renaissance Era

Sofonisba Anguissola was a superstar artist of the Renaissance era. The Italian artist traveled throughout Europe and impressed many people with her art, from Michelangelo to the King of Spain. Her painting of herself and her family, and her work as an official painter in the Spanish court cemented her position as an artist to remember. Read on to know more about the skillful lady of Italy who wowed the world with her art.


Sofonisba Anguissola was born in 1532 in Lombardy to a relatively poor yet noble family. The father, who was a member of Cremonese nobility, encouraged all his children to pursue their talents by providing them with a well-rounded education that included the fine arts, and four out of the six girls became painters. Sofonisba was by far the most skilled out of them. By the age of 22, she had traveled to Rome where she met the famous Michelangelo, who took her under his tutelage for at least two years as he recognized her talent.


Due to her gender, the female artist was not afforded all the freedom the male artists were and often found herself without professional work. Instead, she experimented with self-portraits and family members. Her most famous painting, The Chess Game, is a family portrait of her three sisters. The uniqueness of this painting comes from the fact that it showed females in an informal setting instead of the in-trend formal settings. In 1559, King Phillip II of Spain asked her to join the Spanish court where she became one of his most famous court painters.


The Italian painter lived a long life and to this date, her paintings inspire many artists, including Anthony Van Dyck. She is a beacon of feminine power as one of the few women who painted her way out of the traditional female role during the renaissance era.

A 2600-Year-Old Brain Sparks an Amazing Epiphany

In 2008, a team of scientists pulled out a 2600-year-old skull from a pit in York in the UK. Like most other excavated skulls, no one expected to find a brain still inside, until team member Rachel Cubitt noticed that there was something more than mud inside the skull. As she spotted ancient brain tissue inside the skull, a possibility of an intriguing discovery was opened to a neurologist!

The Excavation

The York University first discovered the Iron Age skull while excavating the site at Heslington East. According to them, the skull belonged to a man who received nearly seven blows to the neck until his head detached.

The Tale of Serendipity

Dr. Axel Petzold started the morning after a Christmas party with a cup of coffee while listening to the news on the radio about the recent discovery of the skull with its brain intact. When the radio presenter pondered on how the brain survived the tide of time so well, Dr. Petzold immediately started to think about it. As an NHS neurologist from University College London’s Queen Square Institute of Neurology, he was well aware of the rareness of the discovery. His Ph.D. subject was neurofilaments, a type of protein that contributes to the stability of our brain. So, it took him almost no time to assume that this brain protein could be the very cause behind this rare survival of the organ, which, otherwise, has a consistency of cream cheese.

The Finding

Dr. Petzold took the effort to connect with the head of the research team working on the brain, Dr. Sonia O’Connor. Dr. Petzold was allowed to take a sample from the ancient brain, and through tests and observations, he and his team finally were able to find evidence of structural neurofilaments in the ancient neural tissue, confirming his theory. The astonishing discovery opens the doors to possibilities never imagined before.