ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
Queen Elizabeth II, from: Reigning Queens
screenprint in colours, 1985, on Lenox Museum Board, signed in pencil, inscribed AP 1/10, an artist's proof aside from the edition of forty, published by George C.P. Mulder, Amsterdam, with the artist's copyright stamp on the reverse
Image & Sheet 1000 x 798 mm.
Feldman & Schellmann II.334
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Lot Essay

'I want to be as famous as the Queen of England' (A. Warhol, quoted in M. Fallon, How to Analyze the Work of Andy Warhol, Edina, 2011, p. 15).

Created in 1985, Reigning Queens brought together four ruling monarchs, three of whom, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Queen Margarethe II of Denmark, and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, shared the status of being monarchs in their own right, rather than by marriage. The exception was Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland, who was made regent in 1985, holding power for her son, the then Crown Prince, now King Mswati III, before his coming of age. The series was issued in two editions, a standard edition of forty, and a Royal Edition of thirty with diamond dust.

The source image for Warhol’s celebrated portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II was the official photograph taken by the Royal photographer Peter Grugeon (1918-1980) and released for the Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977. In addition to being mass produced on flags, bunting, t-shirts, souvenir mugs, plates, stamps and posters, the photograph also spawned numerous re-interpretations beside Andy Warhol's – perhaps most famously the iconic album cover designed by Jamie Reed for the Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen, an album which came to epitomise the punk movement.

Accepted by the Guinness Book of Records as the Most Recognisable Person in the World, the image of the Queen has been reproduced more times that anyone else in history, making her the ultimate subject for Warhol's obsession with fame and celebrity. Although the Queen regularly commissions portraits by distinguished artists such as Lucian Freud, Warhol's depiction is unique amongst these, because she neither sat for it nor commissioned it. Freed from the constraints of official sanction, Warhol pictorial treatment of the Queen is full of high-campery, with day glow pinks and candy coloured hues reminiscent of his portraits of New York transvestites, a reference which is mischievously implied in the series' title, Reigning Queens.

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