The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola
The most famous woman you’ve never heard of.

Set in the sixteenth-century “The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola” tells the love story of a woman’s passion for art… and for a man. In a world where women painters had little to no acknowledgment, she was singled out by Michelangelo and Vasari, who recognized and praised her talent. Gaining the Milanese elite’s acclaim, she went on to become Court painter to the Spanish King Phillip II, and teach his Queen to paint. One can’t live such an extraordinary life without having stories to tell… and tell them Sofonisba does to Sir Anthony Van Dyke, who comes to visit her toward the end of her life. During their meeting, she agrees to reveal her secrets but first challenges the younger painter to find the one lie hidden in her tale. In a saga filled with intrigue, jealousy, buried treasure, unrequited love, espionage, and murder, Sofonisba’s story is played out against the backdrop of Italy, Spain, and Sicily. Throughout her life, she encounters talented artists, authoritative dukes, mad princes, religious kings, spying queens, vivacious viscounts, and dashing sea captains—even a Barbary pirate. But of all the people who fell in love with Sofonisba, only one captured her heart. The painter may have many secrets… but the truth of her life is crystal clear from the beginning: always a strong, passionate woman with a dream—she was an intelligent artist who knew her own self-worth, and in the end, as Michelangelo had done for her, Sofonisba passed her brush to a new generation.

“Sofonisba has labored at the difficulties of design with greater study and better grace than any other woman of our time, and she has not only succeeded in drawing, coloring, and copying from nature, and in making excellent copies of works by other hands, but has also executed by herself alone some very choice and beautiful works of painting.” — Vasari, Lives of the Artists

Dianne Hales, author La Bella Lingua and Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered: Through meticulous research and a deep affinity for art and its creators, Melissa Muldoon spins a captivating tale of a Renaissance woman whose melodious name—Sofonisba Anguissola—should be far better known. Mentored by Michelangelo, esteemed as one of Europe’s finest portraitists, Sofonisba comes to life as a charming, intelligent, passionate and talented woman who defied the conventions of her time to follow her heart and make her living by her brush. Through Melissa Muldoon’s vivid storytelling, we get to know Sofonisba as if she were a friend who shares her innermost secrets and feelings with us.The Secret Life of Sofonisba  Anguissola transports readers to a long-ago place and time where we can immerse ourselves in a life lived fully and creatively. This richly woven tapestry will delight lovers of art, history, Italy—and romance!  Brava, Melissa!

Kate Braithwaite, author of Charlatan, The Road to Newgate: In Melissa Muldoon’s The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola, a gifted female artist leaps from the obscurity of 16th century history and into vibrant life. Humorous, adventurous, ambitious, and an acute observer – but also honest, hard-working and loyal to a fault – Sofonisba is a character to fall in love with. Muldoon has woven a compelling and action-filled story: from Sofonisba’s upbringing in Cremona, east of Milan, to her life in Madrid as a court painter and confidente of Isabel de Valois, wife of Philip II of Spain, and beyond. This is a novel rich in description, romance, and adventure that combines detailed research with excellent characterization. Put simply, it’s everything a historical novel should be.

Martha Bakerjian, Italy expert and author of the website Martha’s Italy: Melissa deftly combines fact with fiction to weave an intriguing tale about the personal life of a top female Renaissance artist and her interactions with important figures and artists of the period. The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola is a very enjoyable work of historic fiction, enhanced by Melissa’s expertise in art history and Italy. I’d say it’s excellent.

Radio Interview: Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola with Sheri Hoyt of Reader views

You can find the interview on also clicking this direct link

Barbara Reeves: When I first read the subtitle of the book “the most famous woman you’ve never heard of” I was definitely intrigued. I have long been a fan of Jane Fortune’s works, especially her book, INVISIBLE WOMEN. And while I had read of Sofonisba Anguissola in that book, I didn’t really know much about her. Therefore I was eager to learn about her and her world. Melissa has crafted an incredible novel that brings the reader right into Sofonisba’s life with her descriptions of life in Cremona, Rome, Madrid and Palermo. I felt as if I could “see” the family in their home as the story began and such visualizations continue in the other locations throughout the book. One of my favorite things about reading is the development of the characters and Melissa is especially gifted in this skill. For example, the young brother, Asdrubale, is as annoying at the end of the book as he was in the beginning. As he was a minor player in the story, I admired that the author was able to keep him in character as the story progressed. She does the same for her major characters as well. Melissa is an artist who draws with her words and engages the reader into the world of her characters. I confess that I read the book in 2 evenings and stayed up way too late, but it was so delightful that I couldn’t stop. Undoubtedly I will read it again as it is always pleasure to “visit” Italy through one of Melissa’s books. Thank you Melissa. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and read it on my tablet instead of listening to it… it was a pleasure. Now I need to find my Vasari and re-read his comments about her.

Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views: “The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola” is the latest novel from Melissa Muldoon in her distinguished collection of works featuring prominent female artists from Italian history. The opening quote, “Life is full of surprises. I try to capture these precious moments with wide eyes,” by the artist herself, sets the tone for what promises to be an unbridled adventure full of passion, love, royal court politics, obsession, murder and of course, the art world in the sixteenth century and beyond.

Sofonisba Anguissola was a woman who dared to dream far beyond the limitations set for women during her era – truly a woman before her time. Her story demonstrates the power behind the sentiment, “anything is possible,” and her achievements helped pave the way for generations of women to come. That Sofonisba is “the most famous woman you’ve never heard of” as indicated in the subtitle, is representative of the way she left her mark on the world – humbly, through hard work, humility, resilience, integrity, and respect. Through Melissa Muldoon’s exquisite rendition the world can see – 500 years later, that Sofonisba Anguissola was a true heroine and role model for all women on the road to equality.

Melissa Muldoon is known for her portrayal of strong women overcoming the odds to fulfill their dreams, and it is one of the many reasons I find her stories so delightful. The author continues to inspire women through her work with her messages of believing in yourself and staying true to your convictions. “The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola” is her best work yet.

“The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola” is a bit of a departure from Muldoon’s traditional time-travel-style adventures, and I was completely captivated by her approach. In this book, Sofonisba relates the story of her colorful life to Sir Anthony Van Dyke, a Baroque artist who became the leading court painter in England. One of my favorite story-telling devices is when a character tells his story to another character. This tenders intimate connections with the characters and Muldoon makes it easy to imagine being in the same room as the two artists engage in a lively afternoon conversation over tea.

Sofonisba’s life is as fascinating as her character and clearly Muldoon has done her homework in terms of research. A genuine 16th century ambiance permeates the pages as Muldoon takes us on a virtual tour through the settings of King Phillip’s court in Spain, Sofonisba’s hometown of Cremona, Italy, and the island of Sicily. Also, as is representative of Muldoon’s previous works, she infuses her own passion for art, history and Italy into this story and it’s evident though the outstanding delivery of such an intricate and engrossing tale.

Spectacular writing, intriguing art and history, inspirational characters, and societal issues still relevant today – these things all combine to create a story of excellence. I was completely enthralled with Sofonisba Anguissola – my only regret was reaching the end of this story. I highly recommend “The “Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola: The most famous woman you’ve never heard of” by Melissa Muldoon. It’s a story of vision, strength, and determination that history and art enthusiasts, along with romance and intrigue fans will enjoy.”

The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola —
The setting is Cremona, Chiusi, Rome and Sicilia

Sofonisba Anguissola, an extraordinary yet often overlooked Renaissance artist, has long been forgotten due to history’s bias against female painters. Her work, prefiguring Caravaggio, was often misattributed to male artists. “The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola: The Most Famous Woman You’ve Never Heard Of” is based on historical facts, though creatively embellished. The story begins with a visit from the prominent Flemish artist Anthony Van Dyck, who seeks Sofonisba’s wisdom toward the end of her life.

In this fictionalized account, Sofonisba shares her secrets with Anthony, challenging him to find the one lie in her tale. Her life unfolds with intrigue, jealousy, buried treasure, unrequited love, espionage, and murder, set against the vibrant backdrops of Italy, Spain, and Sicily. Sofonisba encounters talented artists, dukes, princes, kings, queens, viscounts, sea captains, and even a Barbary pirate.

Despite challenges, Sofonisba earned the praise of Michelangelo and Vasari and was noted in Vasari’s “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.” Michelangelo, impressed by her ability to capture emotions, mentored her, critiquing her work and encouraging her talent. Born into a large family with several painter siblings, Sofonisba’s exceptional promise was nurtured from an early age. Her education included apprenticeships with influential painters like Bernardino Campi, setting a precedent for women in art.