The boy can be identified as the nine-year-old Massimiliano Stampa, third marquis of the small northern Italian city of Soncin, on the basis of a contemporary annotation on the back of the canvas. This is Sophonisba Anguissola’s first major commission. The family commissioned it to commemorate the boy’s inheritance of his title in 1557, at his father’s death. Anguissola was a sympathetic observer of children: here she leavens the stern, very “adult,” impression of the full-length portrait in the traditional black clothing of the Italian courts during the 16th century with the appeal of child’s hesitant expression and the inclusion of the boy’s sleeping pet. Learn more about this object in our art site:

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