Warhol’s ‘diamond-dusted’ portraits of The Queen acquired for the Royal Collection

Release date: 
Monday, 24 September 2012

The Royal Collection Trust has purchased four portraits of The Queen by Andy Warhol for the Royal Collection to mark Her Majesty’s Jubilee.  The screenprints (100 x 80 cm each) will be displayed for the first time in the exhibition The Queen: Portraits of a Monarch at Windsor Castle (23 November 2012 – 9 June 2013). Celebrating both the Jubilee in 2012 and the anniversary of the Coronation in 2013, the exhibition presents a selection of official, commissioned and formal portraits that highlight the diverse ways in which Her Majesty has been represented in different media throughout her six decades on the throne.

Andy Warhol (1928-87), who had a life-long fascination with celebrity, once said, ‘I want to be as famous as the Queen of England’. He created the images of Her Majesty in 1985 as part of his largest portfolio of screenprints on paper, Reigning Queens.  The subject-matter of the series is the four ruling queens in the world at that date – Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Queen Margrethe of Denmark and Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland.  The prints purchased for the Royal Collection are from the Royal Edition, which is sprinkled with ‘diamond dust’ – fine particles of cut or crushed glass which sparkle in the light like diamonds. The set acquired for the Royal Collection is the 14th set in the special edition of 30 which comprises the Royal Edition.

Characteristically, Warhol based Reigning Queens on pre-existing photographs.  He used a single image of each monarch to create four versions printed in different colours.  The photograph used for the screenprint of Her Majesty was taken in April 1975 by the Reading-based photographer Peter Grugeon (1918-80) and was later released for official use during the Silver Jubilee in 1977.  For this sitting The Queen wore the Vladimir tiara, Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee necklace, Queen Alexandra’s wedding earrings and King George VI’s Family Order, pinned to the Garter sash.

Warhol’s multiple versions of the same image were intended to be displayed close together.  They thus reflect the repeated images of the artist’s paintings, such as his diptych of Marilyn Monroe (Tate). Created soon after the actress’s death in 1962, the work consists of 50 images of Monroe, all based on a single publicity photograph from the film Niagara.

The Royal Collection contains the world’s largest collection of portraits of British monarchs, dating back to the 15th century and in a variety of media.  Among portraits of The Queen in the exhibition at Windsor Castle are John Merton’s 1989 drawing, commissioned by Her Majesty for the Order of Merit series, and Lucian Freud’s 2001 oil, which the artist presented to The Queen in 2001.  Pietro Annigoni’s pastel drawing, made in preparation for the portrait commissioned in 1969 by the National Portrait Gallery, was purchased by The Queen in 2006.  The exhibition also includes photographs by Dorothy Wilding, Cecil Beaton, Rankin and Annie Leibovitz.

Notes to Editors

Regarding the use of DACS images:  Press use is considered to be moderate use of images to report a current event or to illustrate a review or criticism of the work, as defined by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 Chapter 48 Section 30 Subsections (1) - (3).  Reproductions which comply with the above do not need to be licensed.  Reproductions for all non-press uses or for press uses where the above criteria do not apply (e.g. covers and feature articles) must be licensed before publication. Further information can be obtained at www.dacs.org.uk or by contacting DACS licensing on +44 207 336 8811.  Due to UK copyright law only applying to UK publications, any articles or press uses which are published outside of the UK and include reproductions of these images will need to have sought authorisation with the relevant copyright society of that country.’

Royal Collection Trust, part of the Royal Household, is responsible for the care of the Royal Collection and manages the public opening of the official residences of The Queen.  Income generated from admissions and retail activity is dedicated to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity, and is used for the conservation of the Collection and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.

The exhibition The Queen: Portraits of a Monarch is part of a visit to Windsor Castle. 

For further information and photographs, please contact the Royal Collection Trust Press Office, +44 (0)20 7839 1377, press@royalcollection.org.uk.  A selection of images is also available from www.picselect.com.