A proof copy of Andy Warhol's 1985 portrait of Queen Elizabeth II is set for auction at Bonhams' Print Sale in London on 11 July. The rare copy is estimated to fetch between £40,000-60,000.
Warhol, an American artist, is known for creating exploratory works on celebrity culture, artistic exploration and advertisement. The artist is regarded as one of the leading figures in the visual art movement known as pop art. Some of his famous works include The Last Supper, Soup Cans and Death and Disaster. Although Warhol is best remembered for his paintings of Campbell's soup cans, he also created hundreds of other works, including commercial advertisements and films.
The signed and numbered print of Queen Elizabeth II is from the Reigning Queens series, which also includes the Queens of Denmark, the Netherlands and Swaziland. It was his last print-portrait before his untimely death in 1987.
It is based on a portrait of Queen Elizabeth painted in 1977 to mark her Silver Jubilee. Given Warhol's fascination with transvestites, of whom he painted a series in the 1970s called Drag Queens or Ladies and Gentleman, the Reigning Queens title is clearly intended as a pun on Raging Queens.
According to Bonhams' website, the two series also share the same bright, almost garish palettes. As always with Warhol, however, the flippancy masks a more serious point about the nature of celebrity and image in the modern world.
"Warhol was, of course, a commercial artist working in design, fashion and advertising for many years before he crossed over into the world of fine art. It is in his portraits above all that Warhol combined these two aesthetic domains, deploying all his graphic skill, his eye for engaging line and colour, his 'creative director' talents to make images that would not only appeal to his immediate clients, but also to absolute strangers in the years to come," wrote art critic and journalist Adrian Dannatt on the painter and his work.