Family Audio Tour: Portrait of Prince Alessandro Farnese

Three-quarter length portrait in oil of a young man wearing an elaborate embroidered cape, ruff and cap, and holding a sword.
Sofonisba Anguissola (c.1532-1625), Portrait of Prince Alessandro Farnese (1545-1592), later Duke of Parma and Piacenza, c.1560. Photo © National Gallery of IrelandCredit

Sofonisba Anguissola (c.1532-1625), Portrait of Prince Alessandro Farnese (1545-1592), later Duke of Parma and Piacenza, c.1560

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Eoin [excited]:
I’ve found someone who looks about the same age as me!  But you’d never find me wearing shorts over white tights! [laughing]

Alessandro [Italian accent]:
Psst, do you think I can’t hear you? These are my very best clothes. My cape is made of precious silver thread and it’s lined with real fur to keep me warm – ermine fur no less. Only the most important people wear ermine – princes and kings!

Are you a prince?

I am indeed: Prince Alessandro Farnese, grandson of the great King Charles the Fifth of Spain. I am Italian, but I live in Spain and I am fifteen years old. Most happy to make your acquaintance. 

I don’t mean to be rude but you look very grown up, in your smart clothes. 

I stand like a king – with my shoulders back and head up high.

Don’t start, my mum’s always telling me not to slouch over my phone!

Ide [out of breath]:
Ah, there you are; I lost you. So you found Prince...

Eoin [interrupting]:
Prince Alessandro. He said hello – when no-one else was around, of course.

That’s always how it is! [pause] The young Alessandro was painted over four hundred years ago by a woman artist called Sofonisba Anguissola. At that time, not many women could be artists – because they weren’t allowed to study art.

That’s not fair. 

It isn’t, but Sofonisba proved to the world just how brilliant she was. She was from Italy but became a star all over Europe; she even worked for the King of Spain, where she painted this picture. 

I think she was an amazing painter. I love all the details, like the pearls on the hat; it’s like you’re zooming in on your phone. And the texture’s amazing too: you can imagine how all these fabrics felt: the fur all soft and the cloak stiffer. 

She really was an incredible talent. But we must move on, to our next painting. 

Coming! [loudly, then whispering] Great to meet you, Alessandro!

You too, dear friend, arrivederci caro amico! [voice fading into the distance]

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