To Sofonisba Anguissola (first letter)

Dear Sofonisba,
Your works are like mirrors reflecting something outside of language. I’m not sure, but I think this has something to do with the possibilities of honest feeling, unhindered sensitivity, or, well, something else altogether really — something distantly related — something I’ll never adequately name.
Emotional states present themselves out of time. I keep seeing gumption and humor from the depths of a Man’s World (a very impoverished and unwelcoming context to begin with). You’ve managed to step out and find your own light. I get to see a different place. Your teachers could not begin to articulate such a thing, even when trying to capture your presence.
You knew this and could show them their failure. You could present their limited perceptions as an object of calm study. Your father, however, appears loving and concerned beyond the controls of convention and code. He is rendered without pretension despite the societal requirements of his station.
The same could be said of the Queen of Spain.
Your sisters appear preciously accessible. The intimate distinctness of each individual is effortlessly conveyed. The immediacy of it all is almost estranging.
You weren’t allowed to study from nude models, but I think this imposed limitation was beneficial in the end (easy for me to say, of course). It helped you get closer to a new kind of realism.

You had to find subject matter in the everyday, in the smiles and stares of those around you, in what was passed over at the margins of known description and the works of Masters. Your pictures remain alive today because of it.