During the Italian Renaissance it was rare for women to have access to artistic education — but by 1558 Sofonisba Anguissola had already been apprenticed to two painters of the Lombard school, and traveled to Rome to meet and learn from Michelangelo. At the time of this self-portrait, she was just 26 years old, and her career was about to explode.
Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring is one of the most well known paintings of the modern age. The mysterious girl has been the subject of novels, acted on screen by Scarlett Johansson, and recreated as a Banksy mural — but we know nothing about the girl herself, and with good reason.
Chéri Samba plays the leading man in many of his own works, but these self portraits aren't autobiographical. Chéri Samba positions himself as a narrator—engaging his audience directly to share his perspective. In this case, he's sharing his love of color: "When I talk about color, I tell people ... that there's no meaning to it. The colors in my paintings are sentimental colors."
We don’t know who Flora was — but the Venetian painter Titian painted her at least five times. Here, she carries flowers in her hand, and takes her name from the Greek goddess of Spring. She was painted first as Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, then painted with a mirror, representing vanity, and finally as the betrayer Salome, carrying the head of John the Baptist.