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My Interview with Lynn Cullen
Lynn Cullen, author of The Creation of Eve and Reign of Madness allowed me to interview her over Skype. With her permission, I share the conversation we had below.
Lisa Binion: Sofonisba Anguissola had an amazing life. What part of her life caught your attention intensely enough to make you want to write a story about her?
Lynn Cullen: I first became aware of Sofonisba Anguissola in a biography about Philip II. There I saw the painting, “Lady in a Fur Wrap”, attributed to her. I fell in love with the painting and wanted to write a story around it--which turned out to be The Creation of Eve. But the achievement that turned my head was that Michelangelo invited her to study with him. He was a pretty cranky guy and invited few men to study with him, let alone a young woman. It was unimaginable that one would travel across the country to study with the most famous painter in the world!
Lisa Binion: Was Sofonisba the only active female painter during the Renaissance period? Were there any other females who studied painting under one of the great masters during that time period that you read about?
Lynn Cullen: Sofonisba was the first. Artemisia Gentileschi came later in the century. Judith Leyster, whom I am writing about now, was a Dutch painter in the early 1600's.
Lisa Binion: Michelangelo played a pretty important role in Sofonisba's life. I had no idea that he as rumored to have been a homosexual. Did you find historical evidence of this or was it all made up for the story?
Lynn Cullen: Michelangelo's sexual orientation was questioned during his lifetime. The heat he got for it from the Pope and the Inquisition is accurately portrayed in The Creation of Eve. They really did have loincloths painted on his nudes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and made a lot of noise about his zest for portraying naked men. After he died, his love poetry written for male lovers was changed by sympathizers so that all the references to "him" were changed to "her."
Lisa Binion: Wow! I never would have guessed. Now about Reign of Madness. What made you want to write about "Juana the Mad"?
Lynn Cullen: As soon as I read that she was called insane and then locked up by those who ended up taking her throne, I thought the legend sounded very fishy. I wanted to find out the truth about her. I was also intrigued that her mother was the most powerful ruler in the world. I wondered what it would have been like to be her daughter. I have three daughters, so the dynamics of mother-daughter relationships fascinates me.
Lisa Binion: At first, Philippe was so sweet and loving with Juana, as opposed to how he treated her later on. Do you believe that was Philippe's true nature or do you believe that the lust for power corrupted him and made him turn against his wife?
Lynn Cullen: I imagined him to be very spoiled and immature. Juana was forced to grow up when she became a mother, but his life went on unchanged. He never had to learn to temper his desires, so he became, as his grandmother, Margaret of York, called him, "a man whose appetite grows with the eating." I do picture him as corrupted by power. To compound matters, I think of him as narcissistic; he wasn't good at empathizing with others. I don't think he gave Juana's feelings much consideration, if any. It just didn't occur to him to put himself in her shoes, or to care how she felt.
Content copyright © 2013 by Lisa Binion. All rights reserved.
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