The Creation of Eve

The Creation of Eve

by Lynn Cullen


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425238707
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/01/2011
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 750,126
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Lynn Cullen is the author of the young adult novel The Creation of Eve, as many acclaimed books for children. She lives with her husband in Atlanta, where she is at work on her next novel.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Cullen richly draws her principal characters and their milieu, effectively transporting the reader back to 16th-century Italy and Spain.... Believable storytelling and wonderfully descriptive writing make The Creation of Eve a must-read for those who love historical fiction, especially if they also love art."
-Newark Star-Ledger

"An intoxicating tale of love, betrayal and redemption. Cullen tackles the contradictions of the Renaissance and captures the dangerous spirit of the Inquisition while handling these vivid characters with prodigious control. The Creation of Eve is a historical romance that teaches as it touches."
-Washington Post

"The Creation of Eve [is a] lavishly detailed, sparkling re-creation. With this suspenseful, evocative tapestry of Renaissance life, art, and royal skullduggery, Lynn Cullen has made a skillful-and, with any luck, permanent-jump into adult fiction."
-Atlanta Journal Constitution

"Endlessly readable, deeply fascinating, and often stunning."
-Open Letters Monthly

"Lynn Cullen weaves a glittering tapestry in The Creation of Eve, blending themes of art, gender and politics into a provocative novel that feels surprisingly timely."

"Stunning...Cullen obviously immersed herself in the history of Spain's Golden Age, but she never allows her research to outmuscle the story told by her graceful and intelligent narrator. A swoon-worthy blend of mystery, romance, and history."
-Atlanta Magazine

"The year is 1560; Elizabeth of Valois (1544-68) has just become the third wife of King Felipe of Spain, and the talented female painter Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1625) has been appointed art instructor to the young queen. In a court filled with all manner of politics, from religious debate to petty jealousies and forbidden love affairs, these two conflicted and often unhappy young women find in each other a much-needed friend and companion. Through the eyes of Sofi, Cullen captivates her readers with the thrill and drama of 16th-century Spain. Hewing closely to historical record, the author fills in enough spaces to make a satisfying story but strategically leaves certain details to the imagination, a trick that has the reader deliciously wishing for just a little bit more.
VERDICT Marking a strong adult historical fiction debut for YA author Cullen (I Am Rembrandt's Daughter), this is a good choice for fans of Tracy Chevalier, Sarah Dunant, or Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves. Highly recommended."
-Library Journal

"The Creation of Eve is above all the gorgeously written, beautifully structured story of Sofonisba Anguissola, an Italian Renaissance painter who happened to be both great and female. She is the staunchly intelligent narrator of Lynn Cullen's complex, meticulously researched portrayal of the Court of Spain in the 1560's, and a true heroine in her own right. This novel is a juicy plum from start to finish."
-Kate Christensen, author of The Great man and The Epicure's Lament

"To read The Creation of Eve is to experience that wholly delicious bookish pleasure of total immersion. Sofonisba Anguissola, an Italian painter, is sent to Spain as portraitist to Elisabeth de Valois and there, amid the baroque intricacy of court politics, rivalry, and romantic intrigue, she struggles to carve out her role-and her legacy-as one of the most admired painters of her day. I found this novel about the quest for fulfillment in art and love enormously satisfying and I'm grateful to Cullen for the pleasures of such a splendid read."
-Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants

"What a marvelous, rich and compelling novel! Lynn Cullen draws an astonishingly vivid world of a gifted woman artist who has studied with Michelangelo and the young unhappy Queen of Spain whom she serves in that turbulent 16th century court. Each woman suffers for a love she cannot have in a time when women were powerless; drawn further into the young Queen's secrets, the artist will risk everything to help her. Turn and find yourself in the 16th century. I was unable to put the novel down and lived in its world."
-Stephanie Cowell, author Marrying Mozart

"Through the keen eye of a painter trained in observation, we are drawn into the rarefied and restricted life of a queen and a court bristling with intrigue, jealousy, misplaced love, escape and escapade—-what could be more tantalizing? With rich visual description, Lynn Cullen secures her place in the tradition of regal historical fiction."
-Susan Vreeland, author of Luncheon of the Boating Party and Girl in Hyacinth Blue

"The Creation of Eve takes readers to a fascinating time—the Renaissance—and introduces us to a remarkable woman, a talented artist neglected by history. Thanks to Lynn Cullen, Sofonisba Anguissola is now unforgettable."
-Sharon Kay Penman, author of Devil's Brood

Susan Vreeland

"Through the keen eye of a painter trained in observation, we are drawn into the rarefied and restricted life of a queen and a court bristling with intrigue, jealousy, misplaced love, escape and escapade----what could be more tantalizing? With rich visual description, Lynn Cullen secures her place in the tradition of regal historical fiction."--(Susan Vreeland, author of Luncheon of the Boating Party and Girl in Hyacinth Blue)

Stephanie Cowell

"What a marvelous, rich and compelling novel! Lynn Cullen draws an astonishingly vivid world of a gifted woman artist who has studied with Michelangelo and the young unhappy Queen of Spain whom she serves in that turbulent 16th century court. Each woman suffers for a love she cannot have in a time when women were powerless; drawn further into the young Queen's secrets, the artist will risk everything to help her. Turn and find yourself in the 16th century. I was unable to put the novel down and lived in its world."--(Stephanie Cowell, author MARRYING MOZART)

Sharon Kay Penman

"The Creation of Eve takes readers to a fascinating time--the Renaissance--and introduces us to a remarkable woman, a talented artist neglected by history. Thanks to Lynn Cullen, Sofonisba Anguissola is now unforgettable."--(Sharon Kay Penman, author of Devil's Brood)

Kate Christensen

"The Creation of Eve is above all the gorgeously written, beautifully structured story of Sofonisba Anguissola, an Italian Renaissance painter who happened to be both great and female. She is the staunchly intelligent narrator of Lynn Cullen's complex, meticulously researched portrayal of the Court of Spain in the 1560s, and a true heroine in her own right. This novel is a juicy plum from start to finish."--(Kate Christensen, author of The Great Man and The Epicure's Lament)

Sara Gruen

"To read The Creation of Eve is to experience that wholly delicious bookish pleasure of total immersion. Sofonisba Anguissola, an Italian painter, is sent to Spain as portraitist to Elisabeth de Valois and there, amid the baroque intricacy of court politics, rivalry, and romantic intrigue, she struggles to carve out her role-and her legacy-as one of the most admired painters of her day. I found this novel about the quest for fulfillment in art and love enormously satisfying and I'm grateful to Cullen for the pleasures of such a splendid read."--(Sara Gruen, author of WATER FOR ELEPHANTS)

Reading Group Guide


A lush and compelling tale of intrigue and longing, set in the sixteenth-century Spanish court.

The Creation of Eve is a novel based on the true but little-known story of Sofonisba Anguissola, the first renowned female artist of the Renaissance. After a scandal in Michelangelo’s workshop, Sofi flees Italy and joins the Spanish court of King Felipe II to be a lady-in-waiting to his young bride. There she becomes embroiled in a love triangle involving the Queen, the King, and the King’s illegitimate half brother, Don Juan. The Creation of Eve combines art, romance, and history from the Golden Age in Spain in a story that asks the question: Can you ever truly know another person’s heart?


Lynn Cullen is the author of the young adult novel I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter, an ALA Best Book of 2008, and several other acclaimed books for children. She lives with her husband in Atlanta.


Q. Your main character, Sofonisba Anguissola, is an actual historical figure. How much do we know about her? How factually based is the story you tell about her?

The Creation Of Eve follows the known facts of her life very closely, as it does for all the other historical figures in the book. What juicy material I had to work from! Here was the daughter of a lowly count from an Italian farming town who became a successful woman painter in what was strictly a man’s world. She was asked to study with Michelangelo—not an artist known for rolling out the welcome mat for students—and then she was invited by Spanish King Felipe (Philip) II, the most powerful ruler in the world, to be a lady-in-waiting to his wife. Incredible!

The facts only get more delicious: When Sofonisba joined the Spanish court, the mature Felipe had just learned of a much younger illegitimate brother who was charismatic, handsome, and lovable—everything Felipe was not. On top of that, this charming brother was the same age as Felipe’s adorable new teenage queen, and of course the two of them immediately hit it off. Worse, Felipe’s own son, the same age as this pair, fell in love with the queen and made no attempt to hide it. The king’s young nephew, who was the king’s ward as punishment for the boy’s father taking up arms against Spain, joined the group of teenagers, stirring the pot. All this comes straight from historical record. Toss in facts like the Queen’s mother was Catherine de Medici, known for her reliance on soothsayers and magic, and here is a story begging to be written. After plumbing sources referencing Spanish court records, legal documents, and the characters’ correspondence, and then poring over Sofonisba’s paintings and drawings, I had all the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction material a novelist could ever desire. I just needed to imagine the connections.

Q. What was it about Sofonisba’s life that made you want to write a book about her?

I started out thinking I was going to write a book about Felipe (Philip) II. Like most people with a little English history under their belt, I mainly knew his name as the king who had led the Spanish Armada. I had always read what a cruel character he was, fighting England and good Queen Elizabeth I, and that he was the terrible despot behind the Spanish Inquisition. I assumed that he deserved his reputation, which has come to be called “The Black Legend”.

Then, while researching another project, I happened to read that he was very close to his daughter, Isabella Clara Eugenia. I also noted that being a remarkably modest and private man, Felipe wouldn’t allow anyone to write his biography. This caught my interest—what if I wrote a story from this beloved daughter’s point of view, having her attempt, out of love and pride, to write his biography? Wouldn’t it be a heartbreaking surprise if, in her research, it slowly dawned on her what a monster her beloved father was?

The surprise was on me. As I researched Felipe, I found that he was a devoted family man who loved learning, music, art, architecture, and pottering around in the garden. He was so fascinated by nature that he wrote a treatise on the diversity of animals; he would grow to hate the traditional Spanish pastime of bullfighting. I found that his reputation as a cruel, possibly insane, tyrant was part of a smear campaign waged 400 years ago by the Dutch and English, people who had a vested interest in making him a villain—they stood to enhance their own power by lessening his. It worked. Centuries later the man is still despised, even by many in his own country. While he committed grave moral errors, such as allowing the Spanish Inquisition to continue under his reign, was he any more bloodthirsty than the other rulers of his time? Even now, it seems radical to suggest that he was no worse, and in some respects he might even have been a little better.

I decided I would write about Felipe in a way that would present both the damaging evidence about his life and also aspects of his good side. I wanted the reader to decide whether Felipe was good or bad or something in between.

When looking around for a narrator for this story cooking in my mind, a striking portrait in a biography on Felipe caught my attention. The artist was Sofonisba Anguissola, a lady in waiting to the Spanish Queen. Once I started researching Sofonisba, I realized that she, too, had a story that needed to be told. Then when I saw her painting of her sisters playing chess (with her nurse looking on, amused, in the background), the deal was cinched. I had to know this talented person whose love for her subjects and passion for her work radiated out of her paintings.

Q. It is difficult to imagine today, at least in Western societies, that women were once regarded entirely as the property of men, whether they were servants or queens. How is this seen in your novel?

Since even in the modern, relatively enlightened US, the right for a woman to vote wasn’t signed into law until 1920, and women are still underrepresented in politics, business, scientific professions, etc., it’s not really a stretch to imagine how in Renaissance Italy and Spain 400 years ago, they were strictly considered as chattel. In the world depicted in The Creation Of Eve, all women, no matter how high born, were entirely subject to the whims of men. From Sofonisba’s peasant nurse, to the Queen of Spain, not one of them is free. The Queen may get to wear beautiful clothing and jewels from head to toe, and she never wants for any material comfort, but she’s forced into a marriage with a man many years her senior who could throw her off at any moment if she doesn’t bear him a son. And Sofonisba, also an educated and relatively privileged woman for that time period, lived in fear that her loss of virginity would be revealed, thus destroying the reputation she had worked so hard to build—and her dear Papa’s reputation as well.

Q. The sixteenth century, when your novel is set, was a time of great political, cultural, and religious upheaval in Europe. What were some of the major events that were taking place?

The biggest catalyst for change during that time was the Reformation. It was so much more than a religious movement—it was a sea change in political power. Until Luther protested about the rampant corruption in the Catholic Church and suggested that the common man should be able to approach God without the assistance of the priesthood, the Pope and the Church had the final say in all decisions affecting everyone in Europe. The Reformation allowed the common man to rise up to challenge the Pope and the rulers who were representatives of the Roman Catholic Church on earth. It was forward thinking of Elizabeth I of England to embrace Protestantism and thus dodge the uprising sweeping around the world. She chose to persecute Catholics instead. On the other hand, Felipe stayed loyal to the Church due to his own religious beliefs, a desire to please his father, and his innate inflexibility—one of his character flaws.

Shock waves from the Reformation even reached the world of art. Because Protestant mobs were destroying churches and the art in them in protest of the Pope’s rule, Catholic church leaders decided to closely examine all art in places of worship for any signs of impropriety. They wanted to remove the excuse the mobs had for smashing art—that it was decadent and unholy, like the rest of the corrupt Church. Michelangelo’s work, in its celebration of the naked male body, came in for sharp criticism.

Meanwhile, an influx of gold and silver from the New World caused strife between the countries trying to grab for it, much like the struggles for oil today. Tension heightened between Felipe and Elizabeth I of England when Elizabeth sanctioned piracy of the Spanish fleets in hope of siphoning off some of this wealth. Seeing that Felipe was becoming preoccupied with England, the ruler of the Ottoman Empire, Suleiman the Magnificent, threatened Spain’s Mediterranean holdings. At this time, too, the Netherlands tried to make its break with Spanish rule.

Q. How did you research this book?

I have a wall full of books at home that I bought as I educated myself on the Spanish court, Renaissance Italy and art, and the culture and natural attributes of Spain. Next came trips to Spain, planned around places my characters had been. In order to experience how the places smelled, looked, and sounded as my characters would have experienced them, I picked my way around piles of mule manure on the sloping hillside farmyard containing the ruins of the once lovely palace of Valsain. I hiked down overgrown pathways along the milky waters of the Rio Tajo in Aranjuez; recorded the sound of bells in Toledo; wandered among the mellow stone piers in the hushed nave of the cathedral at Segovia. I also thought it important to eat Spanish food and to drink the wine—not all research is painful.

In addition, to understand Sofi’s life as an artist, I took a painting class, where I quickly learned I was in way over my head if I thought picking up painting would be a snap. I was fascinated to learn about the many decisions figurative painters must make when composing a picture. Knowing these rules now informs my appreciation of art, and I hope passing on some of these considerations might do the same for my reader. Sadly, though, on a technical level, I never got past correctly shading a pear.

Q. How widely known was Michelangelo’s homosexuality in his own day? What were the attitudes of the time toward it? Was Michelangelo’s sexuality ever used against him?

His homosexuality was well known in the higher circles of Florence and Rome, and periodically his enemies would go to the authorities, accusing him of what was then thought as the most hideous crime against nature. He was saved only by his friendship with the various Popes, who were willing to look the other way as long as he worked on their personal projects, which often included their own tombs. It wasn’t exactly extortion—he was paid handsomely for his work and the popes were happy to contribute to the Michelangelo publicity machine—but he was obliged to spend many years on these projects. But mainly, when it came to his sexuality, Michelangelo’s most unrelenting torturer was himself. His poems berating himself are heartbreaking, though in a moment of self-forgiveness he wrote, “If all our emotions displeased heaven, why would God have created the world?”

Q. Have you always been interested in history?

From my father, an electrical engineer at the phone company by trade, I learned to love history and traveling on a budget. My dad was the Rick Steves of American camping. Every summer we went on three-week camping trips (hotels were too expensive for our family of seven kids and for the amount of traveling Dad wanted to do) that featured the history and nature of the United States. There was always hiking and swimming, but learning was the main event, at least in my mind. I never did learn to swim well but I can tell you where there are good fossils in Ohio and what Lincoln’s boyhood cabin looks like. The rest of the year, trips to the local parks, history museums, and libraries figured into our daily life. I have very fond memories of following Dad on my bike with my sister, going to get our allotment of two books at the local library. It should come as no surprise that I based Sofi’s mild-mannered father on my own gentle dad.

Q. The New World (America) begins to assume great importance in Europe during the time period in which your novel is set, with all sorts of wealth, exotic plants and animals, and new foods, like the tomato, flowing eastward across the Atlantic to Europe. How do we see this in your novel?

I wanted to show how New World foods that we now take for granted on both sides of the Atlantic, such as the potato, the tomato, chile peppers, and corn were just beginning to be studied during Felipe’s reign. Felipe, always greatly interested in nature, commissioned the real-life doctor Francisco Hernández to record and gather specimens in their New World setting. In fact, I considered Francisco Hernández as a love interest for Sofi when I was first writing the book, but I had to look for another candidate when I found out that he was much older than Sofi and married.

The gold flowing across the Atlantic helped replenish Felipe’s coffers at a time when he desperately needed money to finance the wars started by his father’s claims around the world. But the New World gold had an unforeseen bad effect. With the riches being piped in from abroad came a surge in the demand for imported goods. There was no need to manufacture goods for exchange--now ready cash was on hand to buy foreign products. Spain became dependent on imports; manufacturing languished. So when pirates interrupted the flow of gold, which was already beginning to lessen naturally, Spain found itself without a means to pay for the goods it required. Sixty years after Felipe’s reign ended, the Spanish monarchy was so poor they could only afford eggs for dinner. This is not an exaggeration, but a fact. The economy was in a trough so deep it took over 300 years to recover. Now few Americans even know of the great Spanish Empire or Felipe, though his empire rivaled the proportions of ancient Rome--a lesson, perhaps, for our times, of what happens to an economy when a country has too many wars to support and becomes too dependent on imported goods.

  • Were you surprised to learn that Sofonisba Anguissola, a Renaissance woman in a male-dominated culture, was a renowned portrait painter? How much of her fame do you think was attributable to her talent, and how much to other factors?
  • In the novel, we see (to varying degrees) the private lives of a servant, a lady, and a queen. How do their lives differ, and in what ways are their lives defined by their gender or their rank?
  • How might Sofonisba’s life story have changed if she had married Tiberio Calcagni?
  • As stated in the Author’s Note, Michelangelo was attracted to men at a time when homosexuality was a crime against the Church, punishable by death. In what ways does Sofonisba’s attitude toward him change over the course of the novel, in part because of what she learns about his personal life, and in part because of the twists and turns of her own fate?
  • One of the themes in The Creation of Eve is how people make judgments of others and how fallible these judgments can be. The author has stated that she purposely gave her characters both good and bad sides. Did your opinion of any of the characters change over the course of the novel?
  • In her Author’s Note, Lynn Cullen points out how effectively the Dutch and the English manipulated the historical legacy of Felipe II (as well as their own historical reputations). As a result, slander from the 1500s is still accepted as historical fact. Have you seen examples in your own life in which events as reported on the news differed from a scene you actually witnessed?
  • When Elisabeth of Valois was growing up in the French court, titillating questions such as “Which is the greater in love, fulfillment or desire?” were debated. Which of those would you champion?
  • Court intrigue, capable of dooming a queen to death, is a potent force in The Creation of Eve. Certainly, public opinion can affect the lives and careers of public figures today. Are women still more vulnerable than men?
  • The novel poses the question: How well do we really know those closest to us?
    Is it sometimes better not to know them too well?
  • At the end of the book, Sofonisba asks: “Will I ever know why we so often love those whom we cannot possess?” Is what she questions here universal to the human condition?
  • Customer Reviews

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    Creation of Eve 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 62 reviews.
    Darcy001 More than 1 year ago
    There's something about historical fiction that really allows for fascinating character development; not limited to popular conventional wisdom. The story is real, but the author has the freedom to explore controversial events and persona. The Creation of Eve (CE) was just that sort of captivating book. We have traveled various parts of Europe on family vacations with the typical American fascination with the whole concept of kings, queens and other historical persons. CE fed that intrigue as well as giving us another historical example of a women finding her way through a male dominated society. This is not a book I would typically have picked up, but after seeing Sara Gruen's complementary comments I tracked down an advanced copy, and uncharacteristically read the entire book in just a couple of sittings. The character development is really well done, and suspect it's only a matter of time until we see it in movie form(..can Julia Roberts paint?). The use of Sofonisba's journal was a creative way to account for the long time span, and reinforcing a believability of the character and events. I look forward to our next vacation in Spain...reading The Creation of Eve has aroused my curiosity for the history, its peoples and places. I really appreciated Cullen's "Author's Notes!" What a nice way to fill us in on the history and ongoing debates that she and other historians carry on even to this day. I might also suggest a family tree, of the characters, be included as an appendix for keeping track of half brother, step son's, etc for those of us that are somewhat memory challenged.
    K_Torghele More than 1 year ago
    How could anyone resist a book that invites them into its pages with the first line, "In the time it takes to pluck a hen, I have ruined myself?" Certainly not me. And once into the deliciously animated story of Sophonisba Anguissola, I was completely engrossed. Sophi was an accomplished Renaissance painter who seemed to be accidentally born during a time when it was considered an anomaly for women to be anything but nuns or wives. Discovering how she evolved from a simple Italian girl to becoming a member of the Spanish court was only part of the allure. The descriptions of the thought processes around her painting, her interactions with her mentor, Michelangelo, and as companion to the young queen of Spain make it easy to forget that the author wasn't actually there interviewing each of the multidimensional characters that come to life in the pages of the book. If when I finish a book, I don't want to let the characters go and want to delve into more of the facts of their lives, I know it's a great book. When I finished this book, and sadly had no more pages to turn, I did just that.
    penname96 More than 1 year ago
    I've seen Michelangelo's work, but didn't know much about him personally. I had never heard of Sofonisba Anguissola, so I thought this would be an interesting read and it was. I just finished CW Gortner's "Confessions Of Catherine de Medici" and I didn't realize that this book was about Catherine's daughter, Elisabeth after she weds King Philip and joins the Spanish court. Sofonisba, joins this court as Elisabeth's paint tudor. It was a good follow up to "Confessions". I enjoy authors who bring less famous people to light. She did her homework on this one. After reading, I of course had to google and see Sofi's work. The author was right on. It's interesting how different authors bring the same character to a different light. In "Confessions" Elisabeth came off as a lady who couldn't think for herself. In this book, I felt like I was reading about Henry Tudor's 5th wife, the immature "Katharine Howard." This wasn't a page turner, but I enjoyed this book. Now I am ready to make a trip to the Getty Museum, to see some 16th century art work.
    NancyKFL More than 1 year ago
    Lynn Cullen shows a great depth of research and creativity combined in presenting her story of an inflammable historical period of the 16th Century as witnessed through the eyes of the first noted female artist Sofonisba Anguissola, an Italian painter who studied briefly under Michelangelo before being summoned to service in the Spanish court. Realism and poignant intimacy are achieved through the first-person journal entries, in which the entire book is comprised, of the young artist as she who is herself caught up in the allures of the human heart while witnessing those of the people she serves. This is a compelling story and is remarkable in its detail, most realistically and assuredly achieved through the eyes of a very talented and soulful artist. I did not read anything about this book or its author before jumping into it as I did not want to set up any premises, my intention solely being to be enwrapped in an enthralling story, and it was only at the end that I saw how Ms. Cullen's credible research had been so disarmingly and truthfully portrayed. The cover and title first attracted me, and Sara Gruen's testimonial secured my interest.
    GailCooke More than 1 year ago
    There is little reading more intriguing than well done historical fiction. Lynn Cullen raises this genre to new heights with her intriguing, richly visualized THE CREATION OF EVE. Based on the life of the first woman painter to achieve any degree of recognition during the Renaissance, Sofonisba Anguissola, the author transports us to the 16th century courts of Spain and France, each alive with rankling jealousies, harbored dreams, and clever machinations. As a child of 7 Sofonisba was inspired by a picture of the Madonna and Child in a local church. Borrowing her printer father's quill and paper she drew her own picture. He was so impressed by her talent that he ignored the disdainful laughter of their Cremona neighbors, "A girl taking up a man's craft, and such a dirty one at that. Who is going to marry her now?" In time he chose some of her work and sent it to the Maestro, Michelangelo, who invited her to come to Rome to study. An impossibility for a girl in that day and time, yet it happened to Sofonisba who would become a portraitist because women were not allowed o study "from the nude or from the dissection of a cadaver." At Michelangelo's studio she met and fell in love with a young sculptor, Tiberio Calcagni. There is a brief moment of coupling, which Sofi fears might ruin not only herself but Tiberio and bring shame to her beloved father. So, when she is invited by the mightiest of rulers, King Philip II of Spain, to teach his 13-year-old wife, Queen Elisabeth, painting and serve as her lady-in-waiting Sofi does not hesitate. Yet, she is ill prepared for what she finds in the grand palaces of Toledo, Madrid, and Segovia - the animus of the King's sister and a fault-finding condessa who would like nothing better than to see the Queen lose favor. Elisabeth, the daughter of King Henri II of France and Catherine de Medici, is a beauty but rash, and at her then tender age unable to bear children for the King. Philip, a widower and much older than his Queen, wants her total devotion. Add to this mix Don Juan, the king's handsome younger brother, and Don Carlos, his frail, mentally deficient son, both of whom covet Elisabeth. Thus, while strife abounds at court there are tensions without - in Rome Michelangelo is being investigated by the Inquisition of the Catholic Church for the supposed immorality of his paintings in the Sistine Chapel and his rumored homosexuality. (The Grand Inquisitor's punishments are horrific). Plus, the Protestant Reformation is feared by both Philip and Catherine of France who seeks to wed another daughter to Don Carlos in hopes of even stronger ties between their two countries. In the midst of all of this Sofi longs for word from Tiberio, attempts to ameliorate the King's sister and the condessa, and keep an ever watchful eye on Elizabeth whom she fears may act impetuously. With THE CREATION OF EVE Cullen has used history and prodigious research to craft an unforgettable epic, totally absorbing, richly atmospheric. She sensitively portrays the status of women at that time, realistically paints the staggering wealth enjoyed by some as opposed to the deprivation of many, while telling a fascinating story. Somehow Cullen allows us to move in the same circles as Sofi, enjoying feast days , moving among the greats of the art world - Michelangelo, DaVinci, trembling at the thought of the Inquisition, and seeing the onset of the Reformation. An unforgettable pleasure!
    LWatson More than 1 year ago
    This is just the book I've been waiting for! Written from the viewpiont of painter Sofonisba Anguissola, in the Spanish court of Phillip II, this book weaves a compelling story of romance, loyalty, passion, and betrayal. Cullen pays painstaking attention to detail and historical accuracy to paint a vivid picture of life in the Spanish court - the scenes played out just like a movie in my head! It was the perfect escape during my four month old's naptime.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Who is Lynn Cullen? I want more!
    emmi331 More than 1 year ago
    Sofonisba Anguissola was that rarity in the Renaissance - a female painter who had studied with Michaelangelo. Many of her paintings survive today - her portraits are exceptional. Though she lived to age 93, this novel covers the few years in her life that she was a lady-in-waiting in the Spanish court of Philip II. During this period "Sofi" gets caught in the middle of a turbulent relationship between the young Queen Elisabeth and the King's brother Juan. Mostly poor Sofi just wants to paint, but her opportunities are limited by the stifling environment of the court. Author Lynn Cullen lacks the you-are-there descriptive powers of Karleen Koen (Dark Angels, Before Versailles) and her chapters are long on dialogue, much of it on the mundane side. Still, her portrayal of the perils of the Spanish court at the time of the Inquisition is excellent. And the book made me want to learn more about Sofonisba Anguissola.
    twittlebug More than 1 year ago
    A beautifully written story about a female artist, Sofonisba Anguissola in the mid 1500 when women were not respected much at all, especially for their talent. At that time, a woman was not allowed to paint the naked body. Her amazing artistic talent offers her a chance to study with the great Michelangelo in Rome. After her return back to her home town in Italy, she is invited by the King of Spain to be a lady in waiting for his young bride. Sofi gladly accepts this great honor but learns soon enough that life is not so easy being a queen. After reading the book, I did some research about Sofonisba and other characters in the story and discovered that the true story is very close to it. I really enjoyed the book but wished there was a little more story.
    harstan More than 1 year ago
    In 1560 sixteen years old Elizabeth of Valois becomes the third wife of King Felipe of Spain. She was a student of Michelangelo and her being a woman; so King Felipe selects female artist Sofonisba "Sofi" Anguissola to mentor the new queen on painting. Both feel isolated in the backstabbing royal court where squabble is the norm and affairs persistent. The painter and the royal forge a friendship that goes way beyond teacher and pupil as each realizes they can rely on the other to have their back. Told mostly through the perspective of the renaissance artist, The Creation of Eve is a superb historical fiction that reads more like an autobiography of the sixteenth century artist. The Spanish court of King Felipe is a deathtrap for the naive as the queen and the painter quickly learn. That insidious atmosphere of two outsiders is a prime impetus for each to turn to one another in friendship. From the First Notebook entry in 1559, this fine tale contains a strong eye on the era that sub-genre readers will relish The Creation of Eve. Harriet Klausner
    zibilee on LibraryThing 10 months ago
    After being caught in a compromising situation while studying with the great Michelangelo, Sofonisba Anguissola, a premiere painter of her time, decides to leave her home in Cremona, Italy to become the painting instructor and lady-in-waiting to the new Queen, Elisabeth de Valois. Arriving at court, Sofonisba meets the young and inexperienced queen as she first arrives at the palace, never expecting that Elisabeth will become her most cherished friend. Though the relationship between the king and queen is at first cool, the king soon becomes greatly enchanted by the young queen and begins to excessively dote on her and endlessly attempts to produce an heir with her. The queen, full of spirit and life, soon turns her attention elsewhere and finds that she has much in common with the three new young men in court: the king's son Don Carlos, his nephew Don Alessandro, and his illegitimate half brother Don Juan. The naïve Elisabeth quickly becomes entangled in a dangerous love triangle with both the king and Don Juan, a situation that causes no end of worry to Sofonisba. As the king and Don Juan grow ever more enamored of the young queen, the king becomes increasingly jealous and demanding of his wife's attention, a situation that puts Don Juan at great risk. Filled with political, religious and romantic intrigue, The Creation of Eve documents the trials of a powerful woman in love with two men and the havoc it wreaks upon her life as well as Sofonisba's.The story in this book focuses on two very different women. The first, Sofonisba, is greatly bereaved by her decision to leave her family after a rash act threatens to ruin her reputation. Though she is very successful in her own right, her love for another of Michelangelo's students puts her at a disadvantage and rather than face the threat of scandal, she resigns herself to accept a position at court. As Sofonsiba plots a course to change her future, she realizes that that she is leaving the passion of her youth behind and struggles through her feelings of despair even as she begins her relationship as the queen's confidante. The queen, on the other hand, is young and fresh and hopes that her allure will be all that is needed to keep her husband from straying from her bedside. She is the kind of woman who is not savvy in her intrigues and is unable to keep from casting about in her desire for male attention. Sofonisba and the queen, though both kind and generous women, are very different. While the queen is unscrupulous and flighty, Sofonisba is more secretive and wary of all around her. The juxtaposition between the two woman gave this story an uncommon amount of depth, and I found it very interesting that despite the women's great differences, they had a lot in common as well.While the queen professed to love the king, it was with great alarm and uncertainty that I read about her relations with the other men at court. The queen, while professing to love one man, flirted shamelessly with another and lusted after yet a third! There were points that she verbally dallied with the king's son Don Carlos, but I suspect this was done in order to keep her real passion for Don Juan hidden. The king seemed to be led around by the nose by the queen, and I believe that is why it took so long for him to discover his wife's passion for his half-brother. It was a wicked game she played, one that kept everyone off balance, with no one but Sofi able to realize exactly what she was doing. I don't think that her escapades were done maliciously; rather I think the queen was just very juvenile in her desire to be loved by all those surrounding her, sometimes to the great danger of others. Don Juan's attachment to the queen was, I think, sincere, but in the game the queen played, she put him in serious danger, making me feel at once sorry for her and exasperated with her. She was at times a bit of a loose cannon, with her affections ranging far and wide.The king was actually one of my favorite charac
    mountie9 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
    Good Stuff * Historically accurate and very rich in detail * Intriguing characters * Very well researched and the author obviously has a passion for these historical characters and their time period * Interesting notes at the beginning of each chapter * wonderful understanding and description of a woman's place in this era of history * Lots of court intrigue * The Author's note at the end of the bookNot So Good Stuff * Storyline dragged and was a little dry at times * Not very passionate and fiery as you are lead to believe by the books description * Story focuses far too much on the royals and not enough time actually on Sofonisba * Some of the theatrics of the queen and the kings brother are repetitive and irritatingWhat I Learned * Lots of fascinating little historical facts about the late 1500's in Spain and France * It really sucked to be a women during this period of time! * Some interesting facts about Michelangelo * about syphilisFavorite Quotes/PassagesItem: In Madrid, a woman whose only crime was to look especially beautiful dressed in her gown for Mass, was gouged in the cheeks by her husband, his weapon being his fingernails. Her husband was found not guilty of any wrongdoing. She bears the scars on her face to this day.Not long after our return to the palace, the King, finding me painting on the Queen¿s portrait, stopped to study my work. Alone and filled with remorse and shame that his presence now evokes in me, I painted in silence, the hushed dab of my bush against canvas mingling with the roar of the river outside. I heard his pained swallow behind me. ¿You have captured her.Who Should Read * Art/History Lovers * Lovers of richly detailed historical fiction
    VicksieDo on LibraryThing 10 months ago
    Lynn Cullen's Sofonisba is another modern minded woman in a thoroughly non-modern world, making her way. The characters were well written, and the story of Don Juan and the young queen was especially poignant for me. Even though the King loved and adored her, her heart was drawn to Don Juan, his half brother. I felt her heartbreak as she was forced to do her duty. The main character and narrator, Sofinisba, was an excellent observer of others, but her own journey wasn't as compelling to me for some reason. As a female painter she desired fame and fortune as her male counterparts enjoyed, but that was not to be. I was surprised she participated in the young queen's escapades, because she seemed more like a person who would have valued her own skin very much, and not have put it at risk! The information given at the end about the historical truths behind the story was very interesting.Overall, I definitely recommend this one :-)
    supereen on LibraryThing 10 months ago
    Loved this book. Was disappointed when it was over. I enjoy historical fiction based on true data. This book made me want to go out and buy a painting by Sofonisba Anguissola!
    lahochstetler on LibraryThing 10 months ago
    A fictionalized account of the life of Renaissance painter Sofinisba Anguissola, this book chronicles the time Anguissola spent as a lady-in-waiting to Elisabeth de Valois, queen of Spain. At the Spanish court Sofi encounters an entirely different world. Learning to navigate court culture while dreaming about the relationship she left behind in Rome envelop Sofi's time. She becomes one of the queen's favorites, a position that offers little but complexity and danger. Cullen's historical presentation is believable, though I found the beginning of the book to be somewhat slow-going. In part, this is because the first portion of the book, set in Italy, has little bearing on the major thrust of the plot. I found the court setting of the book somewhat difficult to engage. I've read little of the voluminous historical fiction on the kings and queens of Europe, so I suspect that for others more deeply read in the genre, this will not be an issue. This is more my issue than Cullen's, I simply don't find the court setting inherently interesting. My preferences aside, I did get deeper into the story. Cullen's writing is good, though I did find the ending, and the consequences of one final dramatic action, to be wholly unbelievable.
    Litfan on LibraryThing 10 months ago
    This novel was not quite what I had expected based on the back cover. It¿s described as the story of Sofonisba Anguissola, a significant female artist from Italy during the Renaissance. Sofonisba falls for another artist, Tiberio while training with Michelangelo, but they are kept apart by circumstance. While coping with the aftermath of her attachment to Tiberio, Sofonisba is asked to become part of the Spanish court. Her task is to teach the new, 14 year old Spanish Queen to draw. The plot shifts dramatically once Sofonisba enters the court. The focus of the novel shifts to the Queen¿s relationship with King Felipe, and ultimately to a love triangle between the King, the Queen and the King¿s illegitimate brother Don Juan. I kept expecting the novel to resume focus on Sofonisba¿s life at some point, but it never quite fully returned to her. The Queen quite nearly became the main character, and to be honest, I often found her to be more interesting than Sofonisba. Sofonisba¿s character never felt quite developed, and the brief times when her focus shifted from the Queen¿s world back to herself, it felt distracting and even slightly annoying. It was as if the author couldn¿t quite decide at times where the real story was. But despite all that, I gave it four stars because it was utterly absorbing and I could not put it down. The writing was so precise that I felt I was right there, and it painted a vivid portrait of life in the Spanish court. The novel is also quite well-researched in terms of historical detail. In the author¿s note, the author takes the time to let the reader know which pieces of the story were historically accurate, and those with which she had taken artistic license. That was helpful as I sometimes finish historical novels unsure if I¿ve gotten accurate history¿it was nice to have those questions cleared up by the author of this novel. So, overall, it wasn¿t what I expected, but it turned out to be a good, worthwhile read.
    nancnn2 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
    The first half of this novel I mostly enjoyed. But as the book went on, I felt that many points of the story were overly drawn out. The book ends rather abruptly, and at an odd place in the overall scheme of the narrative.At the end of the book there is an "Author's Note" which picks up where the fictionalized account ends, briefly summarizing the rest of Sofonisba Anguissola's life. I found this information fascinating! And it left me with a puzzling question: why did the author choose to fictionalize such a limited glimpse of such an incredibly rich life? I felt almost short-changed.
    VivienneR on LibraryThing 10 months ago
    Lynn Cullen has merged fact and fiction to create an articulate story that for the most part takes place in the Spanish court during the reign of Felipe II (Philip) and his marriage to Elisabeth of Valois, daughter of Catherine de¿ Medici and Henri II of France.Sofonisba Anguissola was the first female artist to achieve prominence in the Italian Renaissance. In the early years of her artistic career she was a student of Michaelangelo. In 1559 she was invited to the Spanish court to teach the new teenage queen to paint and to attend her as a lady-in-waiting. Because she was not an official portrait painter, most of the paintings done at this time were unsigned, some of which have only recently been authenticated.This book is presented as entries from her notebook. Each chapter begins with interesting snippets of information relating to events, customs and conventions of the day. The story concentrates on the lives of Elisabeth and the Spanish royal family with Sofonisba as narrator. Many of the details are true and this makes the book very absorbing. Cullen describes a fictional love between Elisabeth and her husband's illegitimate half-brother Don Juan. This differs from other historians who have imagined a liaison with Philip's son Don Carlos, to whom she was originally promised. The author added a chapter of notes detailing some of the reality and how her research inspired the story. Although Felipe is regarded as an authoritarian ruler, he was generous and considerate of Sofonisba. After the young queen's death he found a husband for the thirty-eight-year-old Sofonisba and paid her a generous income until his death in 1598.This book was very enjoyable as well as enlightening. It sparked my interest in Sofonisba and encouraged me to read more about her and the Spanish and French royal families. I can recommend it to anyone interested in the period or in art history, especially as it relates to women.
    thetometraveller on LibraryThing 10 months ago
    Lynn Cullen's novel, The Creation of Eve, tells the story of Sofonisba Anguissola, the first gifted female painter of the Renaissance. She studied with Michelangelo and her work was noted in her own time in The Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari, but she has largely been forgotten by the modern world.Early in her life, Sofi displayed a talent for drawing. Her father, a printer and bookseller, defied convention and encouraged her to develop her gift. Painting, at the time, was a pastime for men, like most other activities. So his support was crucial for her success. She was invited by renowned artist Michelangelo to study with him after he saw one of her sketches. While in Rome, she meets Tiberio Calcogni, another student of Michelangelo's. She falls in love with him but their single assignation is discovered. She flees for her home in Cremona, fearing the consequences.She hopes to hear an offer of marriage from Tiberio, but none is made. In order to save her own reputation and that of her family, Sofi accepts a position as lady-in-waiting to King Philip of Spain's third wife, Elisabeth of Valois. Doing so requires her to give up her dream of becoming a master painter. (Employees of the king are not allowed to sign their work. Sofi's portraits done after her arrival in Spain are unsigned, resulting in confusion and mis-attribution of her work to contemporary male artists.)King Philip had been married twice before (most notably to Mary Tudor of England) and widowed twice. His ambition to marry Elizabeth I of England after the death of her sister has come to nothing. So, he is in his early thirties when he marries Elisabeth of Valois, daughter of Catherine de Medici of France. She is just fourteen years old.Sofi grows to love the young, impetuous Queen. But she is increasingly troubled by Elisabeth's developing interest in the King's half brother, Don Juan. The relationship between the King and Queen is often strained. He is saddled with the enormous task of running an empire that spreads over most of Europe. He does not have the youth or glamour of Don Juan and can't take the time to try to truly win the heart of his wife. The result is a love triangle that can never result in a happy ending. Sofi can only be there for the Queen and do her best to lessen the friction that exists between the three.When Sofi eventually hears the fate of Michelangelo and her beloved Tiberio, she is devastated. But she cannot afford to show her pain and grief, the inquisition is in full swing. And though she is only a lady-in-waiting, she has developed enemies. She will have to tread carefully to emerge successfully from the embroiled court of Philip II. This is historical fiction at its best! Fascinating real life characters with life breathed into them by a talented writer with a gift for imagining the possibilities so well that the story feels not only possible, but probable. I loved Sofi and her story and appreciated a look at Philip of Spain that was not through the eyes of any of the Tudors. A lovely book, vividly imagined, full of rich history. I loved it and highly recommend it!
    ChristineStefanitsis on LibraryThing 10 months ago
    As an early reviewer, I received 'The Creation of Eve' a historical novel by Lynn Cullen, based on the true but little-known story of Sofonisba Anguissola, the first renowned female artist of the Renaissance. Sofonisba studied under Michelangelo and was asked by the King of Spain (Felipe) to become part of the Queen's (Elisabeth) court. Through Sofi's eyes (and Lynn's impeccable writing) we are transported to the Spanish court with all its intrigue, multi-layered relationships and rules. Another key theme of the novel is the treatment and place of women during this time period. Through Sofi's eyes, we are able to gain access to the interior life of the third wife of Felipe: the young, Elisabeth. At fourteen years old, she is expected to satisfy the King and produce an heir, all as part of deal for peace between France and Spain. The young Queen Elisabeth wants desperately to please her mother (Catherine de Medici) and the women of the Spanish court, but her youth, naïveté and impulsive nature set her on a collision course with the King. Lynn Cullen's novel is well researched and written. She has an appreciation and understanding of painters and painting techniques. I could picture many of the scenes described as vignettes in an exhibition. Sofi is the perfect portrait artist, she remains in the background, allowing her main subject, the Queen, and court life, to come into clear focus. If you enjoy historical fiction and want to learn more about the Spanish Court during this time period, I highly recommend The Creation of Eve.
    NovelEagle on LibraryThing 10 months ago
    The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen ISBN: 978-0-399-15510-6This meticulously researched novel transports the reader into the almost mythical world of Don Juan. Although told in first person, Cullen's protagonist remains a mystery throughout. In this fictionalized autobiography, Sofonisba Anguissola gives us abundant knowledge of the people who surround her while revealing very little about herself.The Creation of Eve was for me a good read but I think I would have preferred it be written in third person singular as told by Sofonisba's personal servant.
    xaverie on LibraryThing 10 months ago
    An interesting, nuanced read, Lynn Cullen's daring novel "The Creation of Eve" takes on an exciting period of talented but lesser known painter Sofonisba Anguissola's life. A female apprentice to Michelangelo when there were very, very few female painters, a personal reason causes Sofonisba to take a position as a lady in waiting and personal painting teacher to the barely teenaged new Queen of Spain, Elisabeth of Valois.With the background of the Spanish Inquisition, the reader is transported through Sofonisba's sporadic diary entries into the nuances of the queen's life.The novel starts slowly, with Sofonisba coming off as far too focused on a single sexual indiscretion that, while a shameful secret to her, is unknown to anyone else. The diary format of the novel was at first a detraction for me, as I find first person narrative to be self-indulgent and far too limited but Cullen manages to create in Sofonisba a perfect observer, shrewdly observing the actions of the Spanish royal family while dealing with matters of her own heart.The more fantasical elements of the story like Don Carlos descent into madness are the most historically accurate and Cullen has done a superb job of seamlessly weaving fiction and reality together to create a wonderful book. "The Creation of Eve" is well worth the time to pick up as it was thoroughly enjoyable.
    buchowl on LibraryThing 10 months ago
    This novel finds the sweet spot between bodice ripper romance and history textbook, combining the best of both without getting bogged down in either. The author uses the voice of the artist Sofonisba Auguissola to tell what it means to be a woman of talent and intellect in the Late Renaissance. I was especially impressed with how the author combined the story lines in the ending; I had my doubts about that being accomplished as the story faltered a bit at times in the first half of the book. Sad yet profound, this novel is a great read that will stay with you after having finished it. I look forward to future works from Lynn Cullen and would recommend this book to anyone interested in historical fiction.
    Kasthu on LibraryThing 10 months ago
    Sofonisba Anguissola was one of the foremost female artists of the Renaissance. Born in a small town in Italy, she studied in Rome under Michelangelo, and became a lady in waiting and art teacher to Elizabeth of Valois who became Queen of Spain when she married King Filipe. While there, Sofonisba witnesses the budding relationship between Elizabeth and the King¿s young half brother, Don Juan.If you¿re looking for a story that¿s solely about Sofonisba you might be a bit disappointed. She¿s more of a witness to what¿s going on around her, rather an active participant in the story. Although Sofinisba led an interesting life herself, it¿s Elizabeth, Felipe, and the Spanish court that take the stage here, and it¿s an excellent story, well told. Like another reader here, I was very surprised by, and interested in, the author¿s treatment of Felipe. I guess I, too, am too use to England-based novels set during this time period, which depict him as a cruel monster. Elizabeth is rather silly, naïve, and pathetic in the way that she behaves, but that doesn¿t stop the reader from ultimately feeling sympathetic towards her. In the end, the reader realizes that Sofi and Elizabeth are very similar; they¿re both trapped in positions they didn¿t choose to be in, unable to make their own decisions about their lives.I also loved the heavy amount of historical details that are in this book. The author obviously did a lot of research to get her story to feel authentic, and her hard work has paid off here. Everything is described in minute detail, without those details bogging down the natural flow of the story. The author¿s writing style reminds me a lot of that of Sarah Dunant¿both in tone and content.
    justabookreader on LibraryThing 10 months ago
    In Rome 1559, Sofonisba Anguissola is training to be a painter. Under the tutelage of Michelangelo, she begins to stretch her talent to heights unheard of for a woman at the time. Her father places a lot of faith in her abilities and provides her with the best teachers, but her status as a woman means she cannot study, sketch, or paint the naked body. This leaves her with little understanding of the human form itself and she is told it adds an inhibited quality to her work that she struggles to overcome.During her time in Rome, she meets and falls in love with another student of Michelangelo¿s, Tiberio Calcagni. Their brief affair causes her shame and she leaves the city hoping that what happened between her and Tiberio will not be found out by her father who worked so hard to make sure she would have the chance to learn her craft.Unaware of what will happen between her and Tiberio as there is no forthcoming proposal of marriage, she takes a position as a lady in waiting to Elisabeth of Valois, the young bride of Felipe II, the King of Spain. She is to teach the young Queen how to draw and paint. Unfortunately, her sad love life, or lack there of, weighs heavily on her. The love trials of the young Queen breaks Sofi¿s heart while all this time she wonders silently about Tiberio. Sofi's heart suffers while she is at court and the growing attraction she sees between the Queen and the King¿s brother, Don Juan, brings her even more heartbreak. Her choices are limited and she struggles with her heart, who she is, and what she must do for the Queen.Very little action takes place in this novel but the affairs of the heart take center stage and the entire time you're aware that the story is being told by an artist. The descriptions, colors, and experiences are filtered through an eye that is always looking for shape, texture, and depth. Told through diary entries, each chapter begins with a painting hint or fact. I loved that the story was told through Sofi's point of view as it allowed you to get close to the characters. Sofi¿s descriptions of the court, the Queen¿s dresses, the other ladies in waiting, and the palaces are wonderful and it's as if you're watching and hearing the conversations first hand.Oddly enough this is a book about a painter but very little painting takes place. Somehow that¿s a good thing as you come to know the artist behind the easel instead and it¿s a good story. For anyone who loves historical fiction, this is a great read. You finish the last page wanting to know more about everyone in the story.