LOT 018

1928 - 1987

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, from Reigning Queens, Royal Edition (F.S.II.337A)
screenprint on Lenox Museum Board with diamond dust, 1985
signed in graphite and editioned R HC 1/2, with the printer's blindstamp, Rupert Jasen Smith, New York and on verso stamped with the artist's copyright stamp, published by George C.P. Mulder
39 3/8 x 31 1/2 in, 100 x 80 cm

Estimate: $500,000 - $600,000 CAD

Sold for: $1,141,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Equinox Gallery, Vancouver
Bob Rennie, Vancouver
Acquired from the above by the present Private Collection, Vancouver, circa 1996

Frayda Feldman and Jörg Schellman, Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné 1962 – 1987, fourth edition, 2003, catalogue #II.337A, listed and reproduced page 143, listed page 219

In 1982, Andy Warhol’s European dealer and publisher George C.P. Mulder wrote to Queen Elizabeth’s private secretary, Sir William Heseltine, to state Warhol’s wish to produce a set of screenprint portraits of the monarch. While the Palace accorded the request, Heseltine’s response was muted: “While the Queen would certainly not wish to put any obstacles in Mr. Warhol’s way, she would not dream of offering any comment on this idea” (figure 1). In 1985, this first reserved response changed to a more positive tone when the Queen saw photographs of Warhol’s screenprints. Heseltine thanked Mulder and commented that “Her Majesty was most pleased and interested to see” these images (figure 2).

As the longest reigning monarch of the British crown, Elizabeth II was the subject of many portraits—official and otherwise—produced by some of the world’s most illustrious painters and photographers. Heseltine’s guarded response showed the care with which Elizabeth II’s image was treated. Warhol, as the avant-garde prince of Pop Art, was perhaps regarded with caution. He was well-known for his portraits of public figures: film stars such as Liz Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, political figures such as John F. Kennedy and Mao, music stars such as Elvis. Warhol was fascinated with celebrity, and the Queen was renowned around the world.

Warhol proceeded to produce his Reigning Queens series, a set of large portraits published in 1985, based on official or media photographs of the only four reigning queens in the world at the time: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, and Queen Ntfombi Tfwala of Swaziland (now Eswatini). This iconic image of Queen Elizabeth II is based on a photograph taken by Peter Grugeon at Windsor Castle in 1975, which was released in 1977 on the occasion of her Silver Jubilee. She is beautiful, resplendent in her regalia of the diamond and pearl Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara and a diamond and pearl necklace, wearing a blue sash pinned with a medallion with a miniature portrait of her father, George VI. Her expression is somewhat Mona Lisa–like—she has an enigmatic smile and appears to look beyond the photographer. She is warm but dignified, conscious of the fact that she is sitting for a formal photograph.

Warhol produced four versions of the portrait in different colours, with coloured lines drawn on the screenprint of the photograph and overlaid with contrasting patches of geometric colour blocks. Colour in this series has a vivid, chromatic intensity, and our print, produced with a regal blue background, is perhaps the most striking of the four colourways. While the standard edition of this series was a run of 40 prints, this print is from the coveted Royal Edition, a smaller deluxe run of 30 which included crushed glass or “diamond dust,” applied directly to the screenprint. This "diamond dust" was sprinkled into the outlines of the portraits, allowing them to glimmer and sparkle in the light, lending an especially magnificent impression when viewed in person.

Three decades later, the Queen’s true approval of the portfolio was revealed when in May 2012, during the year of her Diamond Jubilee, the Royal Collection acquired Warhol’s suite of four prints from the deluxe edition of 30 with diamond dust. Later that year, the prints were exhibited at Windsor Castle in the exhibition The Queen: Portraits of a Monarch (figure 3). They were the only portraits she owned that she did not commission and pose for.

The present owners acquired this print from Vancouver collector Bob Rennie, who has one of the largest and most important collections of contemporary art globally. Rennie has been featured in ARTnews magazine's annual list of Top 200 Collectors, and sits on the Board of Trustees at the Art Institute of Chicago.

This work is editioned “HC” for Hors d’Commerce—“out of trade” or “not for sale”—one of only two such prints aside from the 30 numbered prints of the Royal Edition. Due to their rarity, HCs are the most desirable editions of prints: not commercially available during the initial run, they are typically given as gifts directly from the artist.

Estimate: $500,000 - $600,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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